The Facts About Acoustic Neuroma
One of the most frightening words to hear when visiting your doctor is, the very ominous term “tumor.” As scary as this sounds, the good news is that not all tumors are malignant or cancerous. Many are just benign growths that are somewhat abnormal in one way or another. Acoustic neuroma fits this category, affecting 1 out of every 100,00 patients, the majority of which are merely biological anomalies that do not require intervention. However, in some cases having an acoustic neuroma can cause severe issues if left untreated.
What Does It Mean to Have an Acoustic Neuroma Diagnosis?
An acoustic neuroma is an abnormal cellular growth of Schwann cells on or around the vestibulocochlear nerve. In severe cases, these cells can interfere with the transmission of signals from the inner ear to the brain, resulting in hearing loss and balance issues. Luckily, these tumors are benign in nature and only pose a risk when they are left untreated when problems arise. The most significant dangers are to the vestibulocochlear nerve and the brain stem.
What are the Most Common Symptoms?
Due to the proximity of the vestibulocochlear nerve, the first indicators of having an acoustic neuroma usually manifest as problems with hearing and balance. Things like experiencing tinnitus and muffled sounds and then progressing towards issues with balance and feelings of vertigo. Advanced issues include numbness in the face and difficulty swallowing. As the tumor grows, slowly for most patients, it can press against the nerves and eventually begins putting pressure on the brain stem.
What are the Known Causes of Acoustic Neuroma?
While the full range of causes is still somewhat unclear, the development of these tumors has been linked to malfunctioning gene expressions on the 22nd chromosome. Various cases have been linked to high exposure to radiation in childhood or adolescence and type 2 neurofibromatosis.
What Treatment Options are Available for Dealing With an Acoustic Neuroma?
Once a diagnosis is confirmed via MRI scans, your doctor can help advise which treatment would work best for your situation. At this time, there are three forms that treatment can take; observation, surgery, and radiation. The most common approach is to take regular scans and observe the growth of the tumor over time. Luckily, for many patients, this is all that is required as the tumor never reaches a size that becomes an issue. However, intervention is unavoidable once a tumor becomes too large or starts affecting the surrounding nerves and brain stem. There are determining factors that have to be taken into account to decide if surgery or radiation would be more beneficial. The location, size, rate of growth, and general health are just a few of the details that must be considered before invasive treatments can be advised.