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Cancer is among the most misdiagnosed conditions in the world. For many people in Massachusetts and across the U.S., a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is due to having a rare condition that doctors don’t understand. Take ear cancer, for example.

A rare but aggressive cancer

Every year, about 300 people in America are diagnosed with ear cancer. In comparison, about 250,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. There are different types of ear cancer and some are more aggressive than others.

Melanoma is the most aggressive and serious, but it’s not so common. It affects the melanocyte, which are cells in the innermost part of the epidermis called the basal layer. Usually triggered by excessive sun exposure, it turns the skin a brown color. Squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type of ear cancer, affects the squamous cells on the outermost zone of the epidermis and can spread to other parts of the body.

Risk factors for ear cancer

The cause of ear cancer has yet to be accurately determined. However, doctors have pointed to several factors that increase the risk for it. Old age is one; researchers have shown that squamous cell carcinoma is most likely to arise in people in their 70s. Frequent ear infections are another possible cause as these can lead to cellular changes that make cancer more likely. Sun exposure and light skin also contribute because ear cancer is often the result of skin cancer.

Symptoms will depend on the area the cancer affects. In the outer ear, for instance, patients may notice scaly patches on the skin or white bumps underneath. They may experience a discharge from the ear canal, and if it’s bloody, then the cancer is affecting the middle ear. Cancer of the inner ear can result in dizziness, headaches and hearing loss.

Hiring a malpractice attorney

If your case involves a diagnostic error, you may want to hire a medical malpractice attorney. The laws can be complicated, and negotiating for a settlement can be hard as well. Since a settlement could potentially be large, you may want a lawyer to assist you and provide local representation.