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Basal skin carcinoma is the most common type of ear and temporal bone cancer. Squamous cell cancer is less common, but grows deeper into the body and is more likely to spread.
The Temporal Bone
The temporal bone is an area of the skull above the ear.
Surgery and Other Treatments
Ear Canal and Temporal Bone Cancer Treatments
The type of treatment for this tumor depends on the size, the type or stage of cancer, and the exact location of tumor. Surgery is usually performed first, followed by radiation therapy.
Radiation is not usually the primary treatment. Severe complications would occur if the bone of the skull received the large dose of radiation needed to destroy the cancer. If radiation is used after surgery the required dose is much less.
Surgery on the ear canal and temporal bone is divided into three types: sleeve resection, lateral temporal bone resection and radical temporal bone resection.
Pinna (external ear) Cancer Treatment
The type of surgery for cancer of the pinna depends on the size of the tumor. If a lesion on the ear is very small, the doctor might remove it in the office using a local anesthesia. If the tumor is large, a portion of the ear will need to be removed and reconstructed. Reconstruction of the pinna looks fairly natural.
Sleeve Resection Surgery
Sleeve Resection includes removal of the canal, skin, bone, and eardrum. The ear is reconstructed. Hearing is not affected.
Lateral Temporal Bone Resection Surgery
Structures removed include the sleeve area of the outer ear plus the middle ear. Some people can use a hearing aide after surgery, but hearing is never normal again. Most people cannot hear after surgery.
Radical Temporal Bone Resection Surgery
Radical temporal bone resection includes removal of the entire temporal bone (the sleeve, middle ear and inner ear) plus exposure of the brain. Reconstruction of the temporal bone is required. If the tumor has invaded the brain, a head and neck surgical team and a neurosurgical team is needed.
If a diagnosis is made early, the treatment is less extensive. Large tumors require a large incision and the reconstruction is more complex.
Follow-up visits are very important after surgery. The surgeon needs to examine the patient for any side effects after treatments. Some side effects can be avoided if the surgeon closely monitors the patient for symptoms. If a symptom occurs, the effects might be decreased if treated early. The surgeons might also detect if a cancer has recurred and treat it before it has an opportunity to spread.