Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions


 

  1. What is an Acoustic Neuroma?
  2. What are the causes of acoustic neuroma tumors?
  3. What are the common symptoms of acoustic neuroma?
  4. How are acoustic neuromas diagnosed?
  5. What are the treatment options for acoustic neuroma?

  1. What is an Acoustic Neuroma?

    An acoustic neuroma, otherwise known as a vestibular schwannoma is a benign (non-cancerous) tissue growth that arises on the eighth cranial nerve leading from the brain to the inner ear. Functions associated with this nerve include transmitting sound and balance.

    These tumors usually grow slowly over a period of years. They expand in size at their site of origin and when large can displace normal brain tissue. The brain is not invaded by the tumor, but the tumor pushes the brain as it enlarges. The slowly enlarging tumor protrudes from the internal auditory canal into an area behind the temporal bone called the cerebellopontine angle.

    Acoustic neuroma is the most common type of tumor to occur within the cerebellopontine angle in the brain (between the cerebellum and pons). Of tumors in this region, 80% are acoustic neuromas followed by meningiomas. Tumors are typically described as small (less than 1.5 cm), medium (1.5 cm to 2.5 cm) or large (more than 2.5 cm).

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  2. What are the causes of acoustic neuroma tumors?

    Acoustic neuroma tumors are thought to arise when there is a defect in a certain tumor suppressor gene. It is unknown why this genetic defect occurs. Although there is an inheritable condition called neurofibromatosis, which can lead to acoustic neuroma formation in some people, there is no evidence of an inheritable pattern.

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  3. What are the common symptoms of acoustic neuroma?

    Since acoustic neuromas commonly grow slowly over many years, the body adapts to the gradual changes caused by the tumor and symptoms tend to occur very subtly and gradually. Symptoms commonly include:

    • Progressive or sudden hearing loss in one ear (the most common initial symptom)
    • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) in one ear
    • Problems understanding telephone conversations
    • Unsteady walk
    • Larger lesions can manifest with facial numbness, headache, and imbalance

    Acoustic neuromas are benign tumors. As the tumor grows, it can cause problems with hearing, balance and facial movement. An acoustic neuroma can be life threatening when they grow large enough to compress the brain stem significantly.

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  4. How are acoustic neuromas diagnosed?

    Acoustic neuromas are easily diagnosed by current technology. The best method that is currently available for the diagnosis of acoustic neuromas is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain with a contrast media (dye).

    An acoustic neuroma can be diagnosed with almost complete accuracy using the MRI scan. Most patients tolerate MRI scans very well, but there are a few limitations. Other tests useful for diagnosing Acoustic Neuromas from other disorders are:

    • CT scan
    • Audiogram
    • Auditory Brainstem Evoked Responses (ABR)

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  5. What are the treatment options for acoustic neuroma?

    Older patients with small, non-growing tumors can be monitored safely and MRI scanning repeated over a period of time. If and when tumor growth is confirmed, other treatment options can be considered. Continued observation and monitoring is also indicated for patients who have undergone treatment with stereotactic radiation.

    The choice of treatment depends on several factors: the patient’s age and overall health, the level of hearing in both ears, and the size of the tumor. The treatment choice is a decision made by the patient after extensive discussion with members of the Barrow Acoustic Neuroma Center (BANC) team.

    • Observation and monitoring
    • Stereotactic radiation therapy
    • Surgery

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How can we help you?

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 1-800-BARROW1 (227-7691) or (602) 406-6281.

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Barrow Neurological Institute
350 W. Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 406-3000