Your temporal bone is the part of your skull above your ear. Tumors can start inside the ear canal or on the outside of your ear.

Cancers of the ear and temporal bone are rare. The most common type is basal skin carcinoma (a type of skin cancer), which causes a tumor on the outside of your ear. Squamous cell cancer, another type of skin cancer, is also common and starts deeper within your ear. Both types of cancer can grow further into your ear and bones if not treated.

Symptoms

Symptoms of ear and temporal bone cancer include:

  • A scaly patch of skin on your ear
  • Oozing skin on your ear
  • White bumps on your ear. These are often painless at first.
  • Drainage from the ear canal
  • Ear pain that doesn’t go away
  • Bleeding from your ear

If the tumor grows into the temporal bone, which is more common with squamous cell cancer, symptoms may include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Facial paralysis

Treatment

Treatment for ear and temporal bone cancer depends on the size and location of the tumor. Usually, surgery is the first treatment for this type of cancer.

Small tumors on the outside of the ear may be able to be removed in your doctor’s office. In some cases, your doctor may need to remove part of your ear, which can then be reconstructed. If the tumor has spread, your doctor may need to remove your ear canal, eardrum, and bones in your ear. They may also need to remove lymph nodes near your ear. In rare cases, the entire temporal bone may need to be removed. Surgery for ear and temporal bone cancer may affect your hearing.

Radiation may be used after surgery. Because radiation near or on the skull can cause complications, a low dose of radiation is used.

Risk Factors

You are more likely to develop ear or temporal bone cancer if you:

  • Spend a lot of time in the sun, especially without protection
  • Are fair skinned
  • Are male