Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter
 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Acoustic neuroma

Acoustic neuromas start from Schwann cells (fatty cells) which cover the nerve that is involved in balance (the 8th cranial nerve). They are also called vestibular schwannomas. They often grow very slowly and can be quite large before they are found. Sometimes these tumours can grow on both sides in people with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 2. Treatment depends on the size of the acoustic neuroma and the grade

Monitoring

Small tumours may not need immediate treatment but may be monitored with regular MRI scans. Doctors call this watchful waiting.

Targeted radiotherapy

It is possible to treat some small tumours successfully with very precisely targeted radiotherapy called stereotactic radiotherapy.

Surgery

For larger tumours surgery is the most common treatment and a brain surgeon and an ENT surgeon work together. There are different types of operation and they will discuss with you which one may be best for you.

One type of surgery tries not to damage your hearing. The surgeons remove the tumour through a wound made in your skull. Afterwards there is a risk of your face drooping (facial palsy) and some problems with speaking and swallowing. Your eye may also be dry and sore on the affected side.

The other type of surgery removes the tumour through the ear. It is more likely to damage your hearing but less likely to cause numbness or loss of movement in the face. Some people are partly or completely deaf on that side after the operation.

After surgery

Your specialist may suggest radiotherapy after your surgery if your tumour cannot be completely removed. Stereotactic radiotherapy is commonly used. Or your doctors may just keep a close eye on the tumour that is left with regular CT scans or MRI scans.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating brain tumours section.

 

 

What acoustic neuroma is

Acoustic neuromas are also called vestibular schwannomas. They start from Schwann cells (fatty cells) which cover the nerve that is involved in balance (the 8th cranial nerve). These tumours often grow very slowly and can be quite large before they are found. 

As it grows, the tumour presses on the nerve involved in hearing. They cause deafness on the affected side. They may also cause weakness of the face muscles and numbness of the cheek on that side. If left to get very big they can block the fluid channel in the brain, which makes fluid build up (called hydrocephalus). This is not common nowadays because most people are diagnosed and treated before this happens.

Your care and treatment will be managed by a team who specialise in treating tumours around the base of the skull. This will include a specialist head and neck surgeon.

 

Treatments for acoustic neuroma

The treatment for acoustic neuroma depends on the size it is when diagnosed and their grade. Treatment may include

 

Monitoring the tumour

 If you have a small tumour, you may not need treatment straight away. Your specialist may recommend keeping an eye on it with regular MRI scans. They call this watchful waiting.

 

Targeted radiotherapy

If you have a small tumour, it may be possible to treat it successfully with precisely targeted radiotherapy called stereotactic radiotherapy.  A possible side effect of this treatment is nerve damage, which can develop 6 to 9 months later.

 

Surgery for acoustic neuroma

If you have surgery, it is usual for a brain surgeon and an ENT surgeon to work together. There are different types of operation and they will discuss with you which one may be best for you.

One type of micro surgery tries not to damage your hearing but has a higher risk of damaging the nerve that controls the muscles of your face. You have a general anaesthetic and the surgeons remove the tumour through a wound made in your skull. After this type of surgery there is a risk of your face drooping (facial palsy) and some problems with speaking and swallowing. Your eye may also be dry and sore on the affected side. Physiotherapy and electrical stimulation can sometimes help to relieve these problems. 

The other type of surgery removes the tumour through the ear. It is more likely to damage your hearing but less likely to cause numbness or loss of movement in the face. Some people are partly or completely deaf on that side after the operation.

 

After surgery

If your tumour cannot be completely removed, your specialist may suggest radiotherapy after your surgery. This is usually very precisely targeted radiotherapy called stereotactic radiotherapy. You usually have from 1 to 6 radiotherapy sessions.

If you have a very slow growing tumour, your doctors may just keep a close eye on it by giving you regular CT scans or MRI scans.

 

Tumours on both sides

Sometimes acoustic neuromas can grow on both sides. This happens if you have a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 2, which has caused the acoustic neuroma. These tumours are also treated with surgery. Unfortunately, you will almost certainly be completely deaf afterwards. Your surgery may be delayed as long as possible so that you keep your hearing as long as you can.

 

More information about acoustic neuroma

You can find detailed information about treatments for brain tumours in our section about brain tumour treatment.

You can find information about the outlook (prognosis) for these tumours on the brain tumour statistics and outlook page

You are also welcome to contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

You can contact one of the brain tumour organisations or look at our brain tumour reading list. If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 9 December 2013