Rare cancer may mimic allergy symptoms – including mucus running from the nose

Hay fever: Doctor explains the symptoms and treatments

There are many things people can be allergic to, including foods, medicines and animals.

At this time of year pollen becomes a major culprit for sparking allergic reactions, with hay fever affecting around one in five of us.

Symptoms of this common condition can include a blocked nose, watery eyes and a loss of smell.

However, these are also symptoms of a lesser-known cancer, which could prove fatal if not treated in time.

According to the NHS, nasal and sinus cancer is a “rare” form of the disease.

It affects the nasal cavity (the space behind your nose) and the sinuses (small air-filled cavities inside your nose, cheekbones and forehead).

The cancer is also known to spread to the lymph nodes – a network of glands throughout the body that drains fluid and waste products.

One of the most common symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer is a blocked nose that “does not go away”.

Unlike a symptom of an allergic reaction it typically only affects one side, though.

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Other common signs of the cancer include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • A decreased sense of smell
  • Mucus running from your nose – this can be bloody
  • Mucus draining into the back of your nose and throat.

The NHS warns: “These symptoms can be similar to more common and less serious conditions, such as a cold or sinusitis.”

As with most cancers, the symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer can become more severe and the disease progresses.

In its later stages, it can cause partial loss of vision, swollen glands in the neck and pain in the face.

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A “bulging” eye is also one red flag of the disease, the NHS says.

Other later stage symptoms of nasal and sinus cancer include:

  • Numbness in the face, particularly in the upper cheek, that does not go away
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Double vision
  • A bulging eye
  • A watering eye that does not go away
  • Pain or pressure in one ear
  • A persistent lump or growth on your face, nose or roof of your mouth.

If you experience any of these symptoms you should speak to your GP, especially if they “persist”.

The NHS advises: “It’s very unlikely they’ll be caused by nasal or sinus cancer, but it’s worth getting them checked out.”

Nasal and sinus cancer is rare, with only around 500 cases diagnosed every year in the UK. As a comparison there are around 48,500 lung cancer diagnoses annually.

Is it an allergic reaction?

The most common allergens in the UK are tree and grass pollen, house dust mites, foods such as peanuts, animal fur, insect stings and certain medicines.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:

  • A runny nose or sneezing
  • pain or tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead
  • Coughing, wheezing or breathlessness
  • Itchy skin or a raised rash (hives)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Swollen eyes, lips, mouth or throat.

More specifically, hay fever can cause sneezing and coughing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, loss of smell, pain around your temples and forehead, headache, earache and fatigue.

The NHS states that you should call 999 immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms of a serious allergic reaction:

  • A skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • Wheezing
  • A tightness in the chest or throat
  • Trouble breathing or talking
  • Your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling.

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