Esthesioneuroblastoma, also known as olfactory neuroblastoma, is a malignant tumor that develops in the upper nasal cavity. It usually originates in the nasal cavity and can spread to the sinuses, eyes, and brain. Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer. It can severely affect one’s sense of smell and breathing.

Esthesioneuroblastoma starts in the area near the bone that separates the nasal cavity from the brain. The bone has very small holes through which the olfactory nerves travel. Esthesioneuroblastoma can spread to the lymph nodes in the neck and the parotid glands. It also can spread to other areas of the brain and the body in severe cases, including the lungs, liver, and bones.

People with esthesioneuroblastoma may lose their sense of smell, have frequent nosebleeds, and have trouble breathing through their nostrils. Common treatments for this condition usually include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.


The symptoms of esthesioneuroblastoma may change as the condition progresses. Common symptoms include:

  • Decreased or loss of sense of smell
  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Trouble breathing via the nose
  • Pain in the area surrounding the eyes
  • Vision loss or alteration
  • Pain or pressure in the ear
  • Frequent headaches
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Congestion or stuffiness that worsens or does not improve
  • Pus in the nose
  • Neck lymph nodes enlargement
  • Having difficulty opening the mouth

If any of the signs and symptoms of esthesioneuroblastoma persists, consult a doctor right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.


The cause of esthesioneuroblastoma is currently unknown. Cancer, in general, originates with a genetic mutation that causes normal, healthy cells to continue growing despite signals to halt, which normal cells do not do. Cancer cells proliferate and reproduce uncontrollably. The aberrant cells that accumulate produce a tumor.

Risk factors

Research suggests that individuals who are exposed to hazardous chemicals and particles either through their occupation or other means may have a higher risk of developing nasal cavity cancers. Substances such as wood dust, wheat, nickel and cadmium dust, glues, formaldehyde, and solvents are among the potential culprits. While the role of tobacco smoke in the development of olfactory neuroblastoma is uncertain, it may be a contributing factor.