An Acoustic Neuroma, or also known as Vestibular Schwannoma, is a benign growth that arises on the eighth cranial nerve leading from the brain to the inner ear. These tumors are on the rise, but mainly because of the advances in MRI scanning and patients having more symptoms. Studies show that 2 out of 100,000 people are being diagnosed and are typically found between the ages of 30 and 60. It's a very slow growing tumor and can grow as much as 1mm a year.
|This is NOT a picture of Billy's but is very similar to his and what an AN looks like on an MRI|
The largest symptom complaint is the reduction in hearing. Billy has not had any other symptoms except hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in that ear. When we went to the ENT, just for a standard consult, he had a reduction of hearing by as much as 31%. Some AN's can cause facial pain, numbness or headaches. Thankfully he has not experienced any of these symptoms.
AN's are diagnosed mainly by MRI's. This technique can identify tumors measuring as small as 1mm!!! Billy's tumor is 27 mm's or 2.7 cm and is on the larger side of the tumor ratio. In some recent papers we were reading there were cases of them being as large as 5 cm. Letting them grow as large as 5 can be fatal, as the tumors begin to press more heavily on the brain stem.
There are several treatment options but it is all based on how large the tumor is. The easiest is the GammoKnife or CyberKnife Radiation. But for these the tumors do not need to be on the large side due to swelling of the brain, etc. If it is very small then they will typically just watch it and wait. The third option is the Microsurgical removal. This option is typically used for tumors on the larger side.
This will be our only option. They will go in behind his ear for the surgery. Because of the size of the tumor and where it is located he will lose all of his hearing on that side. To get to the tumor the hearing and balance nerve will be severed. This results in the pernament loss of hearing and balance. Rehab and time will help him gain his balance back, to a degree.
So there ya have it....Acoustic Neuroma up close and personal. And a glimpse at my new Tshirt :)