I had constant sniffles… it led to doctors cutting off my whole NOSE

EXCLUSIVE I had constant sniffles…. it led to doctors cutting off my entire NOSE


A mother battling cancer, who had whole entire nose cut off after doctors cancelled six hospital visits and failed to spot her tumour early, says she’s ‘happy to be alive’.

Lisa Mercer was diagnosed with stage two paranasal sinus and skull-based cancer in August 2022 after suffering with a painful ‘stuffy’ nose, nosebleeds and headaches for a year-and-a-half.

Following her diagnosis, the 49-year-old had to have her full nose removed – a total rhinectomy, a procedure so rare it’s only carried out twice a year – and now wears a magnetic prosthetic attachment where her nose once was.

But the mother-of-three says her ‘traumatic’ nose removal operation could have been avoided altogether, had doctors not repeatedly cancelled her hospital appointments between November 2021 and July 2022.

The former carer believes had she been diagnosed quicker, she may not have lost her nose – and is now urging people with similar symptoms as her to push for more thorough hospital referrals.


Former carer Lisa is pictured after having her nose removed – with a new prosthetic one being fitted 

Lisa is pictured in January 2021 with her nose before she was diagnosed with cancer 

Lisa, from Litherland in Liverpool, said: ‘I wished I’d pushed it more [my referral and diagnosis] because maybe I’d still have a nose and wouldn’t have this fear of the cancer returning hanging over my head.

Lisa’s prosthetic nose that attaches to her skull with magnets 

‘They need more help for people like me [with cancer] and the hospitals need more help because I feel I didn’t get much help really.

‘My full rhinectomy has changed my life a lot. The nose doesn’t bother me, believe it or not.

‘I don’t care about my prosthetic nose, but I don’t think society would be comfortable with me walking around with no prosthetic on. I’m just happy to be alive.’

Lisa had initially begun experiencing symptoms in January 2021 and when they persisted, she phoned her GP for advice.

But after reportedly being unable to get an in-person appointment she was diagnosed with a sinus infection over the phone and given an antibiotic nasal spray to use.

Lisa said she used this medication for a month but when it didn’t help, she returned to her GP on two more occasions but was just handed other nasal sprays to try.

It was only when she began to experience sporadic nose bleeds and the left side of her face went numb, that she booked a private consultation with a specialist in May 2021. 

Lisa had initially begun experiencing symptoms in January 2021  before experiencing nose bleeds in May of that year 

Lisa is pictured after her second surgery in October 2022 where she had her full septum cut out and her nose collapsed 

Lisa is pictured after her third surgery in November 2022 when she had her nose removed and a prosthetic one sewn on 

From this appointment, Lisa said she was referred for an CT scan where she was told she had an infection in the bridge of her nose and was handed another cleaning and steroid spray to try.

Lisa said by this point she had a ‘terrible’ smell of faeces stuck in her nose and believed there was a hole in her nostril, so had another phone call with a specialist in November 2021.

She said she was then booked in for an in-person appointment at the hospital to have a camera put up her nose but claims this session was cancelled six times, resulting in her not being seen until eight months later.

Lisa said: ‘At first I just had a painful stuffy nose, watery eyes and headaches all the time.

‘I then started to get sporadic nose bleeds and then the left side of my face began to go numb.

‘[On my phone appointment with the specialist in November 2021], I told him I felt like I had a hole in my nose. I could feel a lump in my nose and I could smell a terrible smell. It smelt like poo constantly.

‘At this point I was convinced I had cancer. By this point my nose has started to go out of shape. I had a perfectly straight nose and it had started to turn to one side and swell and go really red.

‘On this phone consultation, I was booked in for an [in-person] consultation, but this was cancelled. A second one was booked and then this was cancelled and this happened six times.

Lisa had to undergo 30 rounds of radiotherapy in January 2023 after she had her nose cut off 

Left: Mother-of-three Lisa, 49, is pictured with her new prosthetic nose; and right – Lisa is pictured in January 2021 with her original nose 

Lisa is pictured wearing her prosthetic nose not long after the surgery to fit it to her face was completed 

Lisa proudly sports her new nose during a trip out and says she is ‘happy to be alive’ 

‘I finally was seen in July 2022 but I should have pushed more when my appointments were being cancelled.’

Lisa said at her in-person appointment in July 2022, it was confirmed she had a ‘huge’ hole in her septum and following an MRI and a biopsy, she was diagnosed with cancer the following month.

And, when her cancer deteriorated to stage three, she underwent two surgeries to have the tumour in her nose removed.

Unfortunately, both operations were unsuccessful in removing the growth, which meant Lisa had to have her whole nose taken off in an eight-hour surgery.

A full rhinectomy is the surgical removal of a nose and Lisa said this procedure is only carried out on rare occasions and claims it only happens twice a year at the hospital.

At first, Lisa had implants screwed into her forehead and cheeks and her fake nose was sewn onto her face.

But now she wears a prosthetic magnetic nose which she cleans at least three times a day and has to replace every one-to-two years.

Following her radiotherapy treatment, Lisa says she has been left with no sense of taste or smell.

Despite this, Lisa says she is happy to be alive and her artificial nose doesn’t bother her.

Lisa said: ‘I’m just happy I’m alive but I do think I’ve developed PTSD from the whole experience. It was all pretty traumatic.


Lisa celebrates ringing the bell in hospital in February 2023 after being told she is cancer free following the completion of all her radiotherapy treatment 

The mother of three now wears her prosthetic nose with pride 

Lisa Mercer, 49, had to have her entire nose removed after doctors cancelled a cancer check up six times 

Lisa gruesome hole in her face is pictured in November 2022 after her nose was cut off 

Lisa is shown fitting her new prosthetic nose, which attaches to her face with magnets 

‘When I first saw myself without my nose it was scary and took me a long time to adjust.

‘The radiation treatment was worse than getting my nose off. This was horrific.

‘For the treatment I had to be screwed down in a mask on the table and you can’t move at all. I had to take a sedative to go through with this.

‘After I was diagnosed, my treatment and radiotherapy treatment was amazing and I couldn’t have asked for better care. They were all amazing.’

Now, a year on from her surgery, Lisa has created a TikTok page to raise awareness about her surgery and life with no nose and warns people about the symptoms to look out for.

Lisa said: ‘I made my TikTok page to help other people.

‘Head and neck cancer seems to be popping up more and more and people aren’t getting seen quick enough [or diagnosed quick enough].

‘People need to keep pushing for their diagnosis’.’

A spokesperson for the hospital’s trust said: ‘We are sorry to learn of Lisa’s concerns regarding her appointments at the hospital and our Patient Advice and Complaints Team will contact Lisa directly to discuss these and offer any further support.’

What is nasal and sinus cancer?

Nasal and sinus cancer is a rare cancer that affects the nasal cavity (the space behind your nose) and the sinuses (small air-filled cavities inside your nose, cheekbones and forehead).

Nasal and sinus cancer is different from cancer of the area where the nose and throat connect. This is called nasopharyngeal cancer.

The most common symptoms include a blocked nose that does not go away and usually only affects one side, nosebleeds, a decreased sense of smell and mucus running from your nose or into the back of your throat.

At a later stage people with the condition can suffer pain or numbness in the face – particularly in the upper cheek – that does not go away, partial loss of vision or double vision, swollen glands in the neck and a persistent lump or growth on your face, nose or roof of your mouth.

People are urged to see a GP if they notice any unusual or persistent symptoms, although it is very  unlikely they’ll be caused by nasal or sinus cancer.

A number of factors are known to increase the risk of developing nasal and sinus cancer including smoking, human papillomavirus (HPV) and prolonged exposure to certain substances through work such as wood dust, leather dust, cloth fibres, nickel, chromium and formaldehyde.

Treatments for this type of cancer depend on how early it was diagnosed, how far it has spread and the patient’s general level of health. 

These include surgery to remove the tumour, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

There are no UK wide statistics available for survival rates of nasal and paranasal cancer by stage.

However, figures from the United States show that 80 per cent of people who have localised cancer – which hasn’t spread into nearby lymph nodes – survive their cancer for five years or more after diagnosis.

More than half of people who have it diagnosed as having spread to nearby lymph nodes or nearby structures survive that length of time, while 45 per cent of those who have had the cancer spread to other parts of the body survive for at least five years. 

Source: NHS and Cancer Research UK

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