Tumors of the External Ear
Tumors of the ear can be benign or malignant. They can occur on the external ear, or in the ear canal, the middle ear or inner ear. Tumors in different areas of the ear behave differently. Thus, it is necessary to describe tumors based on their site of occurrence, as well as their behavior and treatment.
Tumors of the ear are classified either by location or by their behavior(malignant or benign).
1. Basal Cell Cancers: These are the most common ear tumors of the external ear. Usually, years of sun exposure causes basal cell tumors (cancers), particularly of the upper portion of the exposed ear. They are the most common cancers of any part of the face including the external ear.
They begin as circular raised areas of skin with central crater-like ulcerations. They enlarge locally and may become ulcerated in the center. Basal cell cancers are more common in the elderly. Also, the fairer the skin, the greater the chance of developing a basal cancer during one's life. Basal cell cancers grow very slowly. Because of this, they are easily cured if treated early. If ignored, however, a basal cell cancer will require very extensive surgery to remove it.
These cancers generally do not metastasize, that is they do not spread to other organs. In most cases they do not break off, enter the bloodstream or travel to other areas of the body. They spread by increasing in size only. Basal cell cancers in early stages can be treated with either surgical excision or local curretment (scraping away the tumor with a sharp looped instrument and peeling down to normal skin).
2. Squamous Cell Cancers: Tumors called squamous cell cancers occur far less commonly than basal cell cancers. However, squamous cell cancers are much more aggressive cancers than basal cell cancers. They spread through the tissues surrounding the site of origin. In addition, squamous cell cancers of the ear can spread to the lymph nodes surrounding the site of origin or to lymph nodes in the neck. Squamous cell cancers of the ear look much like basal cell cancers at an early stage. These tumors may just look like sores. They are generally not painful, but grow more rapidly than basal cell cancers. Early biopsy of any suspicious lesion of the external ear is necessary to identify the presence of a cancer. Arrangements for appropriate removal should be made immediately.
Since squamous cell cancers are much more aggressive, surgical removal must be more extensive.
When squamous cell cancers become large, surgery combined with radiation therapy can also be necessary. The added procedure improves the chance for a complete cure.
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