Olfactory neuroblastoma is a very rare form of cancer that affects the olfactory cells. A lot of research is still being done on this health condition. Read on, to know more about the same.
The other name for olfactory neuroblastoma is esthesioneuroblastoma. According to some medical experts, this condition is so rare that approximately 1,000 cases have been recorded across the globe in the past 85 years. It was first diagnosed in the year 1924, but the most famous case of this condition was that of Chantal Sébire who gained worldwide popularity for raising the debate over euthanasia. She was diagnosed with this condition in the year 2000, but refused to take treatment because of the risk factors involved. The cancer grew slowly and disfigured her face severely. She also lost her sense of smell, taste and vision. She wasn’t allowed to go further with euthanasia and was found dead in her home in March 2008. Because of the rareness of this condition, experts are still trying to understand the prognosis and causes of this cancer.
What is Olfactory Neuroblastoma?
As mentioned earlier, esthesioneuroblastoma is a very malignant form of tumor that occurs in the olfactory cells. These cells are present in the roof or the rear side of the nose causing nasal obstructions and sinus related problems initially. Many a time, these tumors are confused with nasal polyps and therefore, the diagnosis is delayed. The growth of these tumors are also subjective. At times they grow very slowly, while on the other hand, they can rapidly metastasize and make the patient lose his or her sense of smell, taste, and vision completely. If the tumors grow rapidly and reach the advanced stage, they can also cause severe disfigurement of the face as was the case with Chantal Sébire. She suffered from extreme pain and had said, “One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured“.
Some experts have characterized the symptoms of this condition into various phases. Because this cancer develops in the nasal cells, it also leads to various symptoms in the oral, facial, neurological, and cervical regions. These signs and symptoms include loss of teeth, ulcers in the mouth, nasal discharge, presence of lumps or mass in the neck, and facial swelling. The symptoms therefore, depend upon the degree at which the cancer is spreading, the prognosis of which is highly uncertain. Research shows that there are some cases wherein people have lived with this cancer for almost 20 years, and on the other hand there are some cases wherein the cancer has spread so rapidly that death occurred within a few months.
In order to diagnose this condition, various tests and examinations of the nasal area are done. These tests involve Computerized Tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan. These scans can actually reveal the growth of these tumors within the nasal cells and also see how far they have been spread. Additional tests like biopsy and endoscopy can also help in thorough diagnosis of the condition. As far as the treatment for this cancer type is concerned, radiation and chemotherapy is not as effective as in other forms of cancer and surgery is the best way to get rid of the cancerous tumors. However, constant checkups and testing is extremely important as these tumors are recurring in nature.