Skip to Content

What does a tumor feel like in your nose?

A tumor in the nose can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on its location and size. The most common symptoms caused by a nasal tumor include:

  • A feeling of something in the nose
  • Nasal obstruction or congestion
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headaches
  • Swelling or lump on the face
  • Loosening or numbness of teeth
  • Excessive tearing
  • Vision changes or loss

The specific sensations caused by a nasal tumor can vary from person to person. Here is a more detailed look at some of the common feelings and symptoms associated with nasal tumors:

Feeling of Something in the Nose

One of the first signs of a nasal tumor is often a feeling that something is inside the nasal cavity. This may feel like constant congestion, fullness, or blockage on one side of the nose. Some describe it as a feeling like having something stuck in the nose that won’t come out. The tumor can obstruct airflow through the nasal cavity, causing a stuffed-up sensation.

Nasal Obstruction

Nasal obstruction or congestion is very common with nasal tumors. The growth of the mass inside the nasal cavity can block airflow, causing difficulty breathing through the nose. This may occur on just one side if the tumor is localized. The congestion may be chronic or come and go.

Decreased Sense of Smell

As a nasal tumor enlarges, it can block airflow and the detection of odors in the nasal cavity. This can diminish or completely prevent the sense of smell. The loss of smell is most pronounced on the same side as the obstructed nasal passage.


Some nasal tumors are vascular and prone to bleeding. The recurrent nosebleeds are also called epistaxis. Nosebleeds may occur spontaneously or after blowing the nose. Bleeding can range from a minor annoyance to a severe, prolonged nosebleed.

Facial Pain or Pressure

Large nasal tumors can press on and displace facial tissues, leading to facial pain and pressure. The pain may be localized to the sinus or nasal region on the same side as the growth. Larger growths can also cause tooth pain or looseness in top teeth.


Nasal tumors can obstruct normal mucus drainage from the sinuses. The resulting sinus pressure can lead to recurrent headaches, often focused on the front of the head. Headaches may be accompanied by sinus congestion.

Swelling or Lump on the Face

Some nasal tumors become quite large and visibly enlarge or distort the nose or facial area. The mass may be seen as a lump, bump, or swelling on the nose, cheek, or eyebrow region if it expands beyond the nasal cavity.

Loosening of Teeth

A tumor in the upper nose and sinus cavities can put pressure on the bones and tissues surrounding the upper teeth. This can lead to loosening or detachment of the upper teeth.

Excessive Tearing

Tumors at the back of the nasal cavity near the tear ducts can obstruct normal tear drainage, leading to excessive tear production and overflow tearing down the cheek. This is called epiphora.

Vision Changes or Loss

Large, invasive nasal tumors can extend into the nearby eye sockets or optic nerves, compressing these structures. This can lead to complete vision loss, blurred vision, or other vision changes.

What Types of Tumors Commonly Affect the Nose?

There are several types of both malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) tumors that can develop in the nose and sinus cavities.

Benign Nasal Tumors

Some of the most common benign nasal tumors include:

  • Inverting Papilloma – benign tumor of the nasal cavity lining that can obstruct airflow and recur after removal
  • Osteoma – benign tumor of the nasal bones that can obstruct sinus drainage
  • Angiofibroma – benign vascular tumor that causes nosebleeds and obstructed breathing
  • Fibrous Dysplasia – benign bone tumor that can expand and remodel facial bones
  • Hemangioma – benign vascular growth that appears as a red/purplish mass

Malignant Nasal Tumors

Cancerous nasal tumors include:

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – cancer of the nasal cavity lining, often linked to prior radiation or industrial exposures
  • Adenocarcinoma – cancer of the nasal glands, similar to salivary gland tumors
  • Malignant Melanoma – nasal cavity cancer developing from pigment-producing cells
  • Inverted Papilloma – this benign tumor can undergo malignant transformation in about 5% of cases
  • Esthesioneuroblastoma – rare cancer of nerve-sensing cells lining the upper nose

These malignant tumors require prompt diagnosis and treatment. Catching them early improves outcomes.

Other Nasal Growths

Some other non-cancerous masses in the nose include:

  • Nasal Polyps – teardrop-shaped overgrowths of inflamed tissue in the nose or sinuses
  • Rhinosporidiosis – rare nasal mass caused by a parasitic infection
  • Fungal Balls – accumulations of fungal debris and mucus in a sinus cavity

These growths have distinct causes but can obstruct nasal air flow and require removal.

Diagnosing Nasal Tumors

If symptoms suggest a possible nasal tumor, prompt diagnostic workup is important. Tests used to evaluate a suspected nasal tumor include:

  • Nasal endoscopy – allows direct visualization of the nasal cavity and sinuses with a tiny camera on a flexible tube inserted into the nose
  • Imaging – CT scans and MRIs give detailed views of the nasal structures and any masses or abnormalities
  • Biopsy – sampling of the tumor tissue is done to determine if it is benign or malignant
  • Lab tests – bloodwork and other tests may be done to check for any spread of cancer

Based on the tumor type, location, and stage, the doctor will recommend the appropriate treatments, which may include medications, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these. With an early diagnosis and proper treatment, many nasal tumors can be completely removed and cured. Even in advanced cases, treatment can often slow growth and relieve symptoms.

What Does it Feel Like to Touch a Nasal Tumor?

Reaching up to touch or press on your own nasal tumor is not recommended, but here is an overview of what a nasal tumor may feel like on examination:

  • Firm, rubbery or hard mass – benign tumors like osteomas or chondromas feel very firm or solid.
  • Smooth, round, dome-shaped – benign growths like nasal polyps have a characteristic teardrop shape.
  • Gritty, crumbly texture – some benign bone tumors have a grainy, sandpaper texture.
  • Boggy or soft – vascular tumors may have a soft, compressible feel.
  • Sensitive, painful to palpation – malignant tumors often feel sore and sensitive.
  • Fixed vs. movable – less movable tumors are more concerning.
  • Fluctuant – tumors with cystic components may feel fluid-filled.
  • Location – masses high in the nasal vault indicate sinister growths.

The nasal tumor’s characteristics on palpation give clues about the type of growth and whether it is likely benign or malignant. Only an expert ENT doctor should examine and diagnose a nasal mass.

What Does a Malignant Nasal Tumor Feel Like?

Malignant or cancerous nasal tumors often have a distinct feel:

  • Painful – cancerous growths commonly hurt when touched due to tissue invasion.
  • Hard, firm consistency – cancers feel extremely hard, solid, and immobile.
  • Fixed in place – cancers are fixed as they invade deeper structures.
  • Irregular, jagged edges – cancerous masses have uneven, bumpy borders.
  • Sensitive, bleeds easily – cancers are highly vascular and prone to bleeding.
  • Numbness – malignancy may cause numbness or paresthesia in nearby face and teeth.
  • Erosion into bone – cancers eat into and damage the nasal bones.

While most nasal tumors are benign, a mass with these sinister characteristics warrants an urgent biopsy and cancer workup. Aggressive tumors require similarly aggressive nasal cancer treatments.

What Does a Benign Nasal Tumor Feel Like?

In comparison to cancers, benign nasal tumors generally have these distinguishing features on examination:

  • Painless – most don’t hurt, even when palpated firmly.
  • Smooth, rounded shape – benign growths have smooth domed outlines.
  • Soft to firm – they vary from soft and boggy to very hard.
  • Mobile – benign tumors move when prodded.
  • Non-bleeding – they don’t typically bleed readily.
  • Slow growing – benign tumors enlarge gradually.
  • No bone invasion – benign masses don’t erode into bone.

Benign nasal tumors that don’t cause issues can sometimes just be monitored. But ones causing symptoms often require surgical removal.


A tumor growing inside the nasal cavity can have a wide range of sensations depending on its type, location, and size. But any chronic nasal symptoms or feelings of obstruction, pain, or mass effect should be evaluated by an ENT specialist, especially once infections are ruled out.

While most nasal tumors are non-cancerous growths, malignant tumors do occasionally occur in the nose. Only a biopsy and scans can determine a nasal tumor’s true nature. Catching concerning tumors early is key to improving outcomes with nasal cancer treatment. With proper management, even large benign nasal tumors or early stage cancers can often be cured.