Cancer of the ear is rare – about 5,000 new cases are reported in the UK every year.
The condition can affect any of the three parts of the ear; the inner ear, middle ear, or outer ear.
Less than one in every million people in the UK will develop cancer in the middle ear every year.
Those with a 10-year history of ear infections have a higher risk of developing middle ear cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
Ear cancer symptoms vary, depending on where in the ear the tumour is located.
The main outer ear cancer symptom is a spot that doesn’t heal within four weeks.
The spot may appear like a pink lump, with hard scaly surface. They often bleed easily.
Hearing loss and earache could be signs of middle ear cancer, the charity warned.
The most common sign of middle ear cancer, however, is a discharge form the ear, which may have blood in it.
Pain inside the ear, headache, hearing loss, dizziness, or a ringing in the ear could be signs of inner ear cancer.
Some ear cancer patients may also have swollen lymph nodes in their neck.
“The only way to confirm a diagnosis of cancer is to take a small amount of tissue [biopsy] from the abnormal area of the ear,” said Cancer Research UK.
“This is then examined under a microscope.
“Doctors do not take biopsies of the inner ear. This is because it is very difficult to reach without causing problems to other structures around it. Your doctor will make a diagnosis using MRI scans and CT scans.”
Treatments for ear cancers include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery may involved completely removing the ear canal, part of the temporal bone, middle ear or inner ear.
If a patient has their middle or inner ear removed, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to hear on that side of the face again. This could affect balance and make the patient feel dizzy.
Treatment depends on where the cancer is, the type of cancer, the size of the tumour, and whether it has spread.