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Ear Cancer & Temporal Bone Pain – A Simple But Complete Guide

Ear or temporal bone cancer is a very rare form of cancer that is found in the ear and temporal bone. Because of their rare nature in occurrence, it can also be difficult and challenging in order to diagnose and treat such cancer.

Temporal Bone
Temporal Bone Location

However, progress is being made and new discoveries are being worked upon in order to help professional medical practitioners approach the disease successfully.

Cancer of the ear usually begins as skin cancer on the outer ear, ear canal or skin around the outer ear. However, there are very few doctors that specialize in this type of disease in people.

What causes Ear Cancer & Temporal Bone Pain?

Temporal Bone Cancer
Temporal Bone Tumor

It is estimated that men are more in numbers than women who have been diagnosed with ear and temporal bone cancer. It is known that getting too much sunlight can be a risk factor and may cause skin cancer.

Ear and temporal bone cancers are very rare and since there are not too many cases, so, it is not possible to exactly determine the real causes of the ear and temporal bone cancer in individuals.

However, there are certain risks that according to research, may cause cancer in the ear and/or temporal bone. These risks include:

  • Being light-skinned can increase the risk of skin cancer in a person in general.
  • Spending more time in the sun puts a person at a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Having frequent ear infections and the inflammatory response that is accompanied by it may somehow impact cellular changes that could cause cancer in the skin.
  • Ear and temporal cancer are very common in older individuals.

There are two types of ear cancer:

Basal Skin Carcinoma

Basal Skin Carcinoma
Basal Skin Carcinoma

It is the most popular type of ear and temporal bone cancer. It is a scaly type of skin on the ear, which cannot be improved with the use of moisturizer.

The other sign of basal skin carcinoma is when a white pearly bump occurs slowly. This can be painless and an ulcer can be developed in its center. Later on, the ulcer might become painful and can bleed too.

Squamous Cell Cancer

squamous cell Cancer
Close-up of the ear of an elderly male patient, showing squamous cell Cancer.

It is more likely to spread because it grows deeper into the body. This tumor can cause hearing loss, Dizziness, and facial paralysis if it grows into the temporal bone.

What are its symptoms?

The symptoms of the ear or temporal cancer depend on where the tumor is within the ear:

Ear Canal

If the tumor is in the ear canal than symptoms can include:

Middle Ear

If the tumor is in the middle ear than symptoms can include:

  • Discharge of blood from the ear
  • Hearing Loss
  • Earache
  • Difficulty in moving face to the affected ear side

Inner Ear

If the tumor is in the inner ear than the symptoms Include:

  • Pain
  • Headache
  • Hearing Loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Dizziness

These symptoms are usually non-specific because these can also be seen with other illnesses. Since these cancers often begin as skin cancer, an early sign might include scaly patches or tiny white bumps on the outer ear or in the skin around the ear.

If ignored or neglected, these bumps can grow to a large size and produce significant symptoms like facial weakness or may also cause paralysis in the individual.

How to Diagnose Ear and Temporal Cancer?

You might have a blood test to check your general health that will be examined by your doctor. The diagnosis of cancer is done by taking a small number of tissues (biopsy) from the abnormal area of the ear. And these tissues will be examined under a microscope from a specialist doctor (pathologist).

Before this procedure, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the areas so you cannot feel pain. If the biopsy shows a positive result than an MRI Scan or CT Scan might be the next step. This will help in finding the right treatment for you.

What treatment is required for ear and temporal cancers?

With the help of MRI And CT scans, it is also possible to understand if cancer has spread to the parotid gland or lymph nodes in the neck. The typical treatment, in this case, is usually surgery. The goal of this type of treatment is to remove cancer completely.

Treatment of ear cancer generally depends on the size of the cancerous growth and where it is located. Skin cancers on the outside of the ear are usually cut out. However, if large areas of the skin are removed, then the individual may need reconstruction surgery to fill the gap.

In some cases your surgeon might remove some or maybe all of the following:

  • The ear canal
  • A part or whole temporal bone
  • The middle ear
  • The inner ear

Depending on how much is removed, the doctor may be able to reconstruct the individual’s ear. Also, in some cases, hearing is not significantly affected. But, if it is, then the person is required to use a hearing aid.

After Surgery

After surgery, you will have stitches and a dressing over the wound. Your surgeon might also place 1 or 2 small tubes near your wound to drain fluid if there is any. These tubes also help in reducing swelling. It takes 1 to 2 days to stop draining fluid before your doctor take the tubes out.

For how long you will be staying in the hospital is depends on your operation. This is something that your doctor might tell you what to expect.

You might find your hearing is affected if the surgeon removes your middle and inner ear. But some of your ear can be rebuild so that you can hear.

Since ear cancer is exceedingly rare, survival rates vary depending on the location of cancer and also, how long it has progressed. Therefore, it’s always advised to seek an ENT specialist for its effective treatment.

Ear Cancer & Temporal Bone Pain – A Simple But Complete Guide
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