Acoustic neuromas are typically benign and, thus, don’t require aggressive treatment. This is usually the case with small acoustic neuromas showing little to no signs of growth or resulting in little to no signs. You and your ENT doctor will likely just monitor it through regular hearing and imaging tests to make sure that it won’t affect your health.
But there are also cases when an acoustic neuroma can be fatal, if and when it’s left untreated after diagnosis! You and your doctor have to discuss your treatment options so that your life isn’t in danger of being prematurely snuffed out.
Why It Can be Fatal
Keep in mind that an acoustic neuroma is a tumor, an abnormal growth in the small canal linking the inner ear to the brain. If said tumor keeps on growing, no matter how slowly it may be, it can expand into the skull activity.
The growing acoustic neuroma can squash the tissue at the base of the brain and the brain stem. The brain stem regulates consciousness, heart rate and breathing, among other life functions. As the brain tissue and brain stem are being squashed by the tumor, their functions are being compromised.
Take note that there can be a build-up of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), too, a condition known as hydrocephalus. The excessive pressure can damage brain tissues and cause impairments in brain function, as well as observable symptoms like headaches, impaired vision and loss of balance, even mild dementia.
If the tumor isn’t treated, it will adversely affect blood pressure, breathing and consciousness, too. Think of it as suffering from a slow death, which can be prevented with prompt and proper treatment.
How It Can be Treated
The type of treatment for an acoustic neuroma varies depending on its size and specific location. Your overall health as well as your medical history and physical symptoms will also be considered in deciding the treatment protocol. You doctor will consider one or more of these treatments.
Your surgeon will remove the tumor from the small ear acanal and its surrounding area so as to stop its growth. But it isn’t just tumor removal at stake here. Your doctor will also work toward preserving your hearing and facial nerve. You should still have control over your facial muscles instead of suffering from facial paralysis.
Like all invasive surgery, there are complications to the removal of an acoustic neuroma. These can include facial numbness or weakness, balance issues and hearing loss.
Known as stereotactic radiosurgery, it’s usually recommended for small tumors less than 3 centimeters in size. It’s also a common option for older adults and for people who aren’t suitable candidates for surgery.
In both surgery and radiation therapy, your ENT doctor will recommend supportive therapy. You may even be recommended for hearing aids or cochlear implants to restore your sense of hearing.
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