Esthesioneuroblastoma (es-thee-zee-o-noo-row-blas-TOE-muh) is a rare type of cancer that starts in the upper part of the inside of the nose, known as the nasal cavity. Esthesioneuroblastoma also is called olfactory neuroblastoma.

This cancer usually affects adults in their 50s and 60s. But it can occur at any age. Esthesioneuroblastoma usually begins as a growth of cells, called a tumor, inside the nose. It might grow and go into the sinuses, eyes and brain. It also can spread to other parts of the body.

People with esthesioneuroblastoma can lose their sense of smell. They might get nosebleeds. And they might have trouble breathing through their nose as the tumor grows.

Esthesioneuroblastoma treatment usually includes surgery. Often, radiation and chemotherapy are part of the treatment as well.


Esthesioneuroblastoma symptoms include:

  • Loss of the sense of smell.
  • Frequent nosebleeds.
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose.

As the cancer grows, it might cause eye pain, loss of vision, ear pain and headaches.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your health care team if you have lasting symptoms that worry you.


Experts haven't found the exact cause of esthesioneuroblastoma. In general, cancer happens when cells get changes in their DNA. A cell's DNA holds the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The changes tell the cells to make many more cells quickly. The changes give the cells the ability to keep living when healthy cells would naturally die. This causes too many cells.

The cells might form a mass called a tumor. The tumor can grow to invade and destroy healthy body tissue. In time, cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body.


Complications of esthesioneuroblastoma may include:

  • Cancer that grows into nearby organs and tissues. Esthesioneuroblastoma can grow and get into the sinuses, eyes and brain.
  • Spread of the cancer, known as metastasis. Esthesioneuroblastoma can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, lungs, liver, skin and bones.