What is Acoustic Neuroma?
Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous and usually slow-growing tumor that develops on the main (vestibular) nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. Acoustic neuromas most commonly arise from schwann cells, which produce insulation for the vestibular nerve. Therefore, these tumors are often called or known as vestibular schwannomas.
According to the Acoustic Neuroma Association, acoustic tumors constitute 6%-10% of all brain tumors and are found in roughly one of every 100,000 people per year in the United States. This translates to about 2,500-3,000 newly diagnosed acoustic tumors per year.
Acoustic neuromas do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. The brain is not invaded by the acoustic tumor, but the tumor pushes on the brain as it enlarges. In most cases, these tumors grow slowly over a period of years, but sometimes the rate of growth is more rapid.
Symptoms of acoustic neuroma are often subtle and may take many years to develop. They usually arise from the tumor’s effects on the hearing and balance nerves. Pressure from the tumor on adjacent nerves controlling facial muscles and sensation (facial and trigeminal nerves), nearby blood vessels, or brain structures may also cause problems. As the tumor grows, it may be more likely to cause more noticeable or severe signs and symptoms.
Common symptoms of acoustic neuroma may include::
- Hearing loss
- Ringing (tinnitus) in the ear
- Unsteadiness, loss of balance
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Facial numbness and very rarely, weakness or loss of muscle movement
In rare cases, an acoustic neuroma may grow large enough to compress the brainstem and become life-threatening.
Because these symptoms may overlap with those of other conditions, it is important to get the correct diagnosis to find the right treatment. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you are experiencing persistent signs and symptoms that concern you.
Acoustic neuromas are most commonly diagnosed by a detailed MRI of the head and treatment options are observation (watchful waiting), surgical removal, or radiation therapy. The choice of treatment may be based on tumor size, hearing in the ear at the time of diagnosis, patient age and health, and patient preference.
At Austin CyberKnife, we treat acoustic neuromas with the CyberKnife Radiosurgery System®. The CyberKnife System painlessly delivers precise beams of radiation to acoustic tumors, without requiring incisions, hospitalization, or a long recovery time. It is a treatment technique in which high-dose radiation is delivered to the tumor from a linear accelerator mounted on a highly maneuverable robotic arm. Hundreds of different angles enable the radiation to be contoured to the shape of the tumor, resulting in treatment aimed directly at the tumor, avoiding nearby critical nerves and brain tissue.
- Outpatient procedure, no anesthesia or hospitalization required
- Noninvasive, no incisions needed, no head frame needed
- Typically pain-free treatment
- Reaches tumors from virtually unlimited directions with robotic mobility
- Targets individual tumors with pinpoint accuracy
- Enables clinicians to maximize and conform the dose to the tumor target
- Constantly corrects for patient/tumor movement throughout treatment, ensuring radiation beams are always locked on tumor during treatment
- Minimal radiation exposure to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor
- Little to no recovery time and almost immediate return to your normal daily activities
- Minimal, if any, side effects due to pinpoint precision of high-dose radiation delivery