Temporal Bone Cancer

The Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is a high volume center in the treatment of cancers of the ear and temporal bone. Our specialized and experienced team of otologists (ear surgeons) aim to deliver a clean bill of health with the best hearing possible to each patient. Additionally, we routinely use advanced technology to avoid larger-than-necessary operations and rehabilitate hearing effectively. 

About Temporal Bone Cancer

Cancers of the ear and temporal bone are uncommon, malignant tumors that often originate from the surrounding skin or parotid (one of our major salivary glands). Rarely, they may form from the glands that make earwax in the ear canal. Because the ear is located next to several important structures (including the top of the jaw, brain, facial nerve, major arteries and veins, and caverns of the neck), such tumors must be treated quickly and aggressively. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Temporal Bone Cancer

In many cases of temporal bone cancer, hearing loss and ear pain are often the early symptoms. In more advanced cases, other symptoms may include:

  • Bleeding from the ear
  • Inability to open the mouth or jaw pain
  • Facial paralysis on the side of the tumor
  • If the tumor is affecting the brain, a multitude of neurological symptoms

Typically, ear pain and hearing loss prompt patients to seek an examination by an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat physician). If a suspicious lesion in the ear is detected, it may be biopsied (sampled) while awake in the office, and a diagnosis can be rendered by a pathologist.

Treatments for Temporal Bone Cancer at Mount Sinai

A personalized treatment plan is developed for each patient and depends on several factors:

  • Size and extent of the tumor
  • Type of tumor
  • Spread to adjacent structures, as well as lymph nodes of the neck
  • Hearing status
  • Patient age
  • Other medical problems

Patients with temporal bone cancer receive a full multidisciplinary consultation with our head and neck cancer team. This includes a neurotologist (ear surgeon) and head and neck cancer surgeon, and depending on the extent and type of cancer, a visit with our radiation and medical oncology teams.

The standard of treatment for temporal bone cancer is primarily surgical resection, with additional treatments recommended on an as-needed basis.

  • The primary objective of surgical resection is to remove the tumor. Removing the tumor in its entirety optimizes control and survival outcomes. Depending on the tumor, this may involve removal of the ear canal and eardrum and closure of the ear canal. We may recommend removal of the parotid gland and lymph nodes from the neck to maximize cancer control.
  • If required, radiation will follow a few weeks after surgery and will be administered over several sessions.
  • Chemotherapy is not always required, but may be depending on the extent and type of tumor.

After the cancer has been removed and conventional treatment has concluded, the process of rehabilitation of hearing begins. This may be with a bone anchored hearing implant depending on the extent of resection and degree of hearing loss postoperatively.