(Olfactory Neuroblastoma)

Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer, occurring in just a small fraction of the population; it poses significant challenges due to its location and potential for aggressive behavior.

Our Capabilities

As the region's most comprehensive brain tumor and skull base center for adults, we know that offering hope means delivering leading-edge treatments and world-class care. We understand that each patient is unique, so we bring together an expert multidisciplinary team across subspecialties to review every case and decide the best course of treatment. Our team is committed to helping you and your family along the way.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

Click below to learn more about where you can find compassionate care.

As the region's most comprehensive brain tumor center for adults, we know that offering hope means delivering leading-edge treatments and world-class care. We understand that each brain tumor is unique to each patient, so we bring together an expert team of physicians across subspecialties to review every case and determine the best course of treatment. Our team is committed to helping you and your family along the way.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Brain Tumor team at 513-418-2282.

At the UC Head & Neck Cancer Center, our subspecialists are experts in even the most complex and rarest forms of head and neck cancers. We work together to deliver highly specialized, world-class care.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Head & Neck Cancer team at 513-585-UCCC.


Understanding Esthesioneuroblastoma

Introduction to Esthesioneuroblastoma

Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare malignant tumor originating in the upper part of the nasal cavity. This condition predominantly affects the olfactory epithelium - the tissue responsible for our sense of smell. While it is a rare form of cancer, occurring in just a small fraction of the population, it poses significant challenges due to its location and potential for aggressive behavior.

Understanding the Nasal Cavity

The nasal cavity is a complex space that plays a key role in respiratory function and olfaction. Esthesioneuroblastoma can disrupt these functions, leading to a variety of symptoms. Understanding this condition is crucial not only for patients but also for advancing oncological knowledge. 

Symptoms and Early Detection

Esthesioneuroblastoma presents a range of symptoms, often related to its origin in the olfactory region. Early signs include nasal obstruction, a decreased sense of smell, and sometimes, nosebleeds. As the tumor progresses, patients may experience more symptoms, such as facial pain or swelling, and in advanced stages, changes in vision or eye movement due to the tumor's proximity to the orbital area.

Given the tumor's location in the nasal cavity and its potential impact on the olfactory system, these symptoms can often be mistaken for more common nasal or sinus issues. This highlights the importance of early detection and the need for patients to seek medical advice for persistent or unusual nasal symptoms. Healthcare professionals are crucial in differentiating these symptoms from typical sinus problems and guiding patients forward.

Detecting esthesioneuroblastoma early is important for effective treatment and better outcomes. Regular visits with healthcare professionals are essential, especially when experiencing persistent nasal symptoms. Through early intervention, the chances of successful treatment and management of this condition are significantly increased.

Diagnosis and Staging

Diagnosing esthesioneuroblastoma requires a multi-faceted approach. A detailed medical history and physical exam are conducted, focusing on the nasal cavity and associated symptoms. Imaging studies, particularly a CT scan, can help find the tumor's presence and extent.

Following initial imaging, a biopsy is typically performed to confirm the diagnosis. The biopsy allows for a microscopic examination of the tumor cells, which is crucial for an accurate diagnosis. Once esthesioneuroblastoma is confirmed, tumor staging is necessary to decide the best treatment. Staging involves assessing the tumor’s extension – evaluating whether there has been spread to adjacent structures like the skull base or lymph nodes, and whether there is distant metastasis.

Treatment Options

The treatment of esthesioneuroblastoma is multifaceted, often involving a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Treatment depends on the stage of the tumor, its location, and the patient's overall health.

Surgical Resection

Surgical Resection is the cornerstone of esthesioneuroblastoma treatment, especially in the initial stages of the disease. The goal is to remove the tumor while preserving as much normal tissue and function as possible. In cases where the tumor invades critical areas like the skull base, specialized techniques like craniofacial resection are employed. This complex surgery often involves a multidisciplinary team, including neurosurgeons and ENT specialists. In some instances, endoscopic surgery may be a viable option, offering the benefit of being less invasive.


Radiation Therapy is another key piece of treatment, either used after surgery to eliminate remaining cancer cells or as a primary treatment in cases where surgery isn't possible. Advances in radiation technology, like intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), allow for more precise targeting of the tumor, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.


Chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery and radiation, particularly in advanced cases or when there's a high risk of recurrence. It's also the primary treatment for metastatic esthesioneuroblastoma.

The treatment of esthesioneuroblastoma requires careful planning and coordination among various specialties to achieve the best possible outcome. Regular follow-up is crucial to watch for recurrence or complications arising from treatment.

Advanced Treatment Techniques

As research in the field of oncology advances, new treatments for esthesioneuroblastoma are being developed and tested. Clinical trials are pivotal in this progress, offering patients innovative therapies and contributing to the medical community's understanding of this rare tumor.

Targeted Therapies and Immunotherapy

Targeted therapies, for instance, focus on specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of esthesioneuroblastoma cells. By interrupting these pathways, these treatments can effectively control the tumor while minimizing harm to normal cells. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, aims to boost the patient's immune response against cancer cells, marking a significant shift from traditional treatment methods.

Minimally Invasive Surgeries

Emerging surgical techniques, such as minimally invasive endoscopic procedures, offer patients shorter recovery times and less post-surgery discomfort. These advancements in surgical technology improve patients' quality of life and enhance the precision and effectiveness of tumor removal.

Patients interested in taking part in clinical trials or exploring these new treatment options should consult the team at UC Health. Our team can provide access to the latest therapies and offer comprehensive care tailored to each patient's unique needs with esthesioneuroblastoma.

Complications and Prognosis

Like any cancer, esthesioneuroblastoma can lead to various complications, mainly if it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the skull base or other organs (metastases). Though relatively low, the risk of distant metastasis is a concern, particularly in the advanced stages of the disease. Early detection and treatment are key to preventing such complications.

The prognosis for esthesioneuroblastoma varies depending on several factors, including the stage of the tumor at diagnosis, the patient's age, and overall health. Generally, the survival rates are relatively favorable, especially when the cancer is detected and treated early. However, in cases where the tumor has progressed or metastasized, the outlook can be more challenging.

Regular follow-ups and post-treatment monitoring are crucial for early identification of recurrence. Recurrent esthesioneuroblastoma requires a tailored approach, often involving a combination of treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Managing recurrent cases emphasizes the importance of continuous care and vigilance even after the initial treatment phase.

Advancements in medical research and treatment modalities continue to improve the outlook for patients with esthesioneuroblastoma. With ongoing developments in targeted therapies and personalized medicine, there is hope for even better outcomes in the future. Talk with the team at UC Health if you’re interested in learning more.

Living with Esthesioneuroblastoma

Living with esthesioneuroblastoma presents unique challenges. For patients and their families, adapting to life during and after treatment is a journey that requires support and resilience. Managing the day-to-day of the condition involves regular medical appointments, coping with treatment side effects, and supporting emotional well-being.

Support networks can be important. Healthcare professionals, including oncologists, nurses, and counselors, provide essential medical and psychological support. Additionally, support groups and community resources can offer invaluable help, sharing experiences and advice from others who have faced similar challenges.

Adapting to life with esthesioneuroblastoma also involves making lifestyle adjustments. This might include dietary changes, exercise modifications, and strategies to manage stress and support mental health. Throughout this journey, open communication with healthcare professionals and a dedicated support network are key to successfully navigating the challenges posed by esthesioneuroblastoma.

Pediatric Esthesioneuroblastoma

Pediatric esthesioneuroblastoma, although rare, requires special consideration due to the unique needs of children and adolescents. Treatment protocols for children often differ from adults, emphasizing the need for specialized pediatric oncology care. The impact on growth, development, and long-term health are critical factors in choosing the most appropriate treatment.

Pediatric patients also benefit from a multidisciplinary team, including pediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiation therapists, and child life specialists. This team works together to provide comprehensive care that addresses not only the medical aspects of the disease but also the emotional and developmental needs of the child.

Families of children with esthesioneuroblastoma face unique challenges. Support services, including counseling and educational resources, are essential to help them navigate the complexities of the disease and its treatment. The goal is to ensure the best possible outcome for the child while minimizing the long-term impact of the treatment on their overall health and well-being.

Recurrent and Metastatic Cases

Managing recurrent esthesioneuroblastoma and cases with metastatic spread requires an aggressive and tailored approach. Recurrence of the disease can occur even after initial successful treatment, highlighting the need for ongoing vigilance and regular follow-up. Treatment may involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Treatment choice depends on the location and extent of the recurrence, the patient’s overall health, and prior treatment history.

For metastatic cases, the focus may shift towards controlling the spread of the disease and managing symptoms. Emerging therapies, including targeted treatments and immunotherapy, are being explored in clinical trials and offer hope for improved management of advanced cases.

Patients with recurrent or metastatic esthesioneuroblastoma require close monitoring and may benefit from consulting with a team of specialists at a comprehensive cancer center, such as the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center. 

In Summary

Esthesioneuroblastoma is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive and individualized approach to treatment and care. We encourage anyone affected by this condition to seek advice from the UC Health team and explore the available treatment options and support services.

Answers to Your Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about Esthesioneuroblastoma

Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that originates in the olfactory epithelium in the nasal cavity. It's characterized by a tumor that can affect both the sense of smell and nasal function.

Diagnosis typically involves a combination of imaging like CT scans, biopsies, and staging procedures to figure out the extent of the tumor.

Treatment usually includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The approach depends on the stage of the tumor and the patient's overall health.

There's a possibility of recurrence, so regular follow-up and monitoring after the initial treatment is important.

The prognosis varies but is generally favorable, especially when diagnosed and treated early. Advanced stages or recurrent disease may have a more challenging prognosis.

Pediatric cases are treated with a specialized approach that considers the child's growth and development, often involving a multidisciplinary pediatric oncology team.

Support includes multidisciplinary care teams specializing in this cancer, patient support groups, and other community resources.

Contact Us

At UC Health, we lead the region in scientific discoveries and embrace a spirit of purpose – offering our patients and their families something beyond everyday healthcare. At UC Health, we offer hope.