What is ear and temporal bone cancer?
The temporal bone is an area of the skull located above the ear. Ear and temporal bone cancer usually begins as skin cancer on the outer ear or in the ear canal. A rare form of cancer, temporal bone and ear cancer is more common in men than women. An estimated 200-300 cases of ear cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.
There are three different types of ear and temporal bone cancer. If they are neglected, ear cancers may grow into the ear canal, mastoid, middle ear, facial nerve, or organs responsible for your hearing and balance. The types of ear cancer include:
- Basal cell carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinomas are usually found on body parts exposed to the sun, such as the ear. They grow slowly and often first appear as a white bump which may bleed or hurt. They rarely metastasize, or spread.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: The most aggressive type of ear and temporal bone cancer, squamous cell carcinomas, have a higher chance of spreading.
- Adenoid cystic carcinoma: The rarest form of ear cancer, it originates in the glands that produce earwax.
Related cancers include nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer, and nasopharyngeal cancer.
What are the symptoms of ear and temporal bone cancer?
Ear and temporal bone cancer often begins as skin cancer. Ear cancer symptoms may include small white bumps or scaly patches on the outer ear or on the skin around the ear. These tumors can grow large if neglected and may lead to facial paralysis. The main symptoms of ear and temporal bone cancer include:
- Ear pain
- Hearing loss
What are the causes and risk factors of ear and temporal bone cancer?
Due to its rarity, ear cancer requires more research. However, chronic skin infections in the ear canal may increase your risk for developing ear cancer. Years of sun exposure to the skin on the ear, called the pinna, also increases your risk of developing the disease. Fair-skinned people are at greater risk for developing skin cancer and temporal bone cancer.
How is ear and temporal bone cancer diagnosed and treated?
Ask your doctor to examine any scaly skin, lesions, or tiny bumps that develop on or around your ear. If it grows larger or spreads, the area may be cancerous and will require a biopsy. Malignant tumors must be removed right away to prevent them from spreading.
Ear cancer treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor, as well as the stage of the cancer. Usually, your doctor will perform surgery to remove the lesion first, then follow up with radiation therapy. There are three types of ear canal and temporal bone surgeries:
- Sleeve resection surgery: This procedure removes the skin, canal, bone, and eardrum. Doctors reconstruct the ear, and patients retain their sense of hearing.
- Lateral temporal bone resection surgery: The middle ear and sleeve of the outer ear are removed during this surgery. After surgery, some people may wear a hearing aid to assist with hearing loss and most will not hear normally again.
- Radical temporal bone resection surgery: This surgery requires removal of the temporal bone. The brain is exposed during reconstruction of the sleeve, middle, and inner ear.
Ear and Temporal Bone Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center
Patients receive treatment for ear and temporal bone cancer at the Baptist Cancer Center’s Head and Neck Center. Each patient receives the undivided focus of a team of physicians and scientists. This team may include medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, neuroradiologists, and plastic surgeons. They are joined by dentists, nurses, speech pathologists, audiologists, nutritionists, psychologists and social workers with special training in head and neck cancers.
Working together, We have special expertise and highly skilled therapists to help you maintain speech, swallowing, and hearing.