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Nasal Papillomas

Definition, Description, Causes and symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prognosis

Nasal papillomas are warts located inside the nose.


Two types of tumors can grow inside the nose: polyps and papillomas. By far the most common are polyps, which have smooth surfaces. On the contrary, papillomas have irregular surfaces and are, in fact, warts. Papillomas may be caused by the same viruses that cause warts elsewhere on the body. They are inside the nose, more often on the side near the cheek, and, because of their internal structure, they are much more likely to bleed than polyps.

There is a special type of nasal papilloma called an inverting papilloma because of its unique appearance. About 10 or 15% of these are or can become cancers.

Causes and symptoms

Like polyps, papillomas can plug up the nose and disable the sense of smell. Unlike polyps, papillomas often bleed.


A physical examination with special instruments will detect these tumors.


Because of the possibility of cancer, all nasal papillomas must be removed surgically and sent to the laboratory for analysis. If a cancer is present, further surgery may be necessary to guarantee that all of the cancer has been removed. The initial surgery can be done in an office setting by a specialist in head and neck surgery, also known as otorhinolaryngology and popularly abbreviated ENT (ear, nose, and throat). Cancer surgery is more extensive and often requires hospitalization.


For benign (non-cancerous) lesions, removal is curative, although they tend to recur, just like warts elsewhere. The cancerous papillomas may occasionally escape complete surgical removal and spread to adjacent or distant sites. The prognosis is then much more complex.



Ballenger, John Jacob. Disorders of the Nose, Throat, Ear, Head, and Neck. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1996.

Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 1996. 35th ed. Ed. Stephen McPhee, et al. Stamford: Appleton & Lange, 1995.

J. Ricker Polsdorfer, MD


Polyp—A tumor commonly found in the nasal cavity or intestine.

Additional topics

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