Cysts and Tumors: Ear

cysts and tumors earCyst or tumors in the ear can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. The ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Cyst and tumors can occur in all three sections of the ear. You may think cyst and tumors are the same, but they are different in both anatomy and origin. A cyst is a fluid-filled or semi-fluid filled sac. They are not cancerous and found anywhere in the body but in this case, they are located in the outer, middle or inner ear. Tumors, on the other hand, are considered an abnormal mass of tissue that can be either malignant or benign. If you find any abnormal growth, it is best to make an appointment with a physician right away.

What is a Cyst?

Cysts are not considered a serious health concern, but if it continues to grow or cause irritation, it needs to be removed. The most common cyst associated with the ear is known as a sebaceous cyst. Sebaceous relates to oil or fat. A sebaceous cyst is a cyst filled with dead skin and oil. This cyst can be found in the back of the ear, on the ear lobe, and ear canal. A sebaceous cyst can cause pain and discomfort. If discovered in the ear canal, hearing loss may also occur. Infections are another effect of a cyst. Treatment is only needed if the cyst continues to grow or become infected.

Cholesterol Granulomas

Cholesterol Granulomas are gelatinous filled masses found in the middle ear or on the mastoid bone. It is usually caused by blood hemorrhaging into either the middle ear or mastoid.  It can cause damage to the mastoid bone and disrupt both drainage and hearing. To treat Cholesterol Granulomas, a tube can be inserted to drain the ear or in more severe cases, surgical removal of the mass altogether may be necessary.

Tumors

Tumors are a more serious health concern if found in the ear. Tumors, unlike cyst, can be considered cancerous. In the ear, most tumors are benign. It is very rare to find a malignant tumor in the ear. It is also difficult to detect without a biopsy. As with any cancer, early detection is always best. The sooner the tumor is detected, the better the outcome. Tumors can also be found in the outer, inner, or middle ear. Not all tumors are cancerous, and many common tumors of the ear are benign.

Cholesteatoma

Cholesteatoma is a tumor that is benign and found in the middle ear behind the eardrum. These tumors cause repeated infections and eustachian dysfunction. The Eustachian tube is a canal that connects the pharynx to the middle ear. When the Eustachian tube is blocked, it puts pressure on the eardrum and leads to the accumulation of fluid that gets infected. The best treatment is removal because they will continue to grow. The growth of this tumor will begin to cause hearing problems, balance issues, and facial muscle complications. With the bones of the middle ear being so small and fragile damage can easily occur as a result of the tumor. Cholesteatoma in more severe cases affects the brain by causing pus or meningitis.

Facial Nerve Neuroma

Facial Nerve Neuroma is a tumor of the facial nerve. You may think this tumor is found on the face, but it is located in the middle ear. As this tumor grows, it puts pressure on the facial nerve leading to paralysis. Facial nerve neuroma is one of the least common tumors of the ear. Treatment requires surgery and in most cases restructuring of the facial nerve.

Malignant Tumor

It is highly uncommon to have a malignant tumor in the ear. In rare cases, doctors may find malignant squamous cell tumors in the middle ear or mastoid bone. Malignant tumors occur as a result of recurring infections and drainage problems. Common symptoms include hearing loss, pain, and intermittent bleeding from the ear. As stated earlier, early detection is best when it comes to cancer, but in this situation, early detection is more difficult. The symptoms of a malignant ear tumor are closely related to an ear infection. If you commonly have ear infections and drainage problems, you typically will not think it is cancer. Diagnosis of a malignant tumor happens upon examination. If the doctor detects some abnormal tissue, they will do a biopsy to determine if its cancer or not.

Cyst and tumors are two different problems that can occur on or in the ear. Treatment is not always necessary for cyst unless it causes pain or discomfort. Although cysts are not serious, they can cause hearing problems and possible bone damage if they continue to grow. In this case, they will have to be removed. Tumors are typically more severe but in most ear cases, benign. In rare cases, they are cancerous and require removal. Reoccurring ear infections, particularly in an adult should be looked at and may require surgery to prevent future damage or tumors. If you feel any growths or discomfort, it is best to talk with a physician. Do not ignore any signs or symptoms. It is best to be safe than sorry.

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