Sinonasal Undifferentiated Carcinoma (SNUC)

Sinonasal Undifferentiated Carcinoma (SNUC) is a cancer of the sinuses. It was first described in the late 1980’s. When you Google it, the words you will immediately find in bold are “rare” and “aggressive” and “poor prognosis.” The rest of what you will find are heavy medical papers that will require you to spend your nights with a thesaurus and ideally access to a medical profession friend who will answer your questions at 1 am. Due to it being rare and poorly understood, SNUC is often discovered at Stage 4. It hits men more than women; average age of diagnosis is early 50’s. There are no clinical studies on this cancer. There’s no definitive treatment protocol.

The “sinonasal” clearly refers to sinuses in your nose and head. The “undifferentiated” part is a bit harder for the layperson. Let me summarize for you my layperson understanding: it’s not good. Your cells specialize as you develop. Sperm meets egg forming the new you. Little four-celled new you starts growing to be more cells. Eight and then sixteen and then eventually the billions of cells that are you. In between four cells and the billion-celled you, cells have to specialize. You need red blood cells and those are way different than the white blood cells, and nerve cells, and skin cells that you also need. Each cell is designed to do certain things to make the biochemical wonder of you work. Undifferentiated cells are ones that don’t have a specific job. It’s like they went back to square one (“Hey – We can be whatever we want to be!”) of your early development. This is cool when you’re four cells big. When you’re all fully formed, the undifferentiated pop-ups can cause a few problems, especially if they are growing uncontrollably, as cancer cells do. They can make big masses. They can jump ship from one part of your body and go find purchase in another. In other words, the doctors are trying hard to treat cancer in your sinuses, but your sinus cancer is capable of taking flight and finding another spot, like let’s say your liver, and trying out life there instead.

There is not no hope. There are people who fight this cancer and survive. However, it’s a long and rough road with enough uncertainty to make you really try all those meditation apps you’ve heard of, or book a permanent spot in your local church pew. Or both. I recommend both.