If you have been diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, one of your next steps is to investigate your available treatment options, including surgery. While your doctor will work with you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your individual condition, learning as much as you can before that discussion can help you have a better understanding of why one treatment option may be recommended over another.
About Acoustic Neuroma
Before discussing surgery and other treatment options available in northern NJ for your acoustic neuroma, it can be beneficial to understand the condition itself. An acoustic neuroma (also called a vestibular schwannoma) is a benign tumor that develops from the covering of the vestibulocochlear nerve. This is the cranial nerve that is responsible for both hearing and balance, which is why those senses can be affected.
Cranial nerves are paired, which means you have one on each side. Generally, patients only have one affected side unless they have a rare condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2. Because the tumor is benign, it will not spread to other areas of the body. However, it can grow large enough to impact nearby structures, necessitating treatment like surgery.
Treatment Options for Acoustic Neuroma
Because every patient is different, your doctor is going to take multiple factors into consideration before recommending any treatment option. Some things to consider include the size and location of your acoustic neuroma, the symptoms you are experiencing and any complicating health conditions you may have, including advanced age.
Monitoring for Acoustic Neuroma
Not all patients with acoustic neuroma will require treatment. If your tumor is small and not causing symptoms, your doctor may choose to “watch and wait” to see if your acoustic neuroma grows any larger or symptoms develop. Keep in mind that if your tumor does grow, you may require treatment at a later point and that it is important to adhere to any monitoring schedule your doctor recommends.
Surgery for Acoustic Neuroma
Many NJ patients will require surgical treatment of their acoustic neuromas. Surgery takes place within a hospital setting while you are asleep, ensuring you are comfortable through the entire procedure. You can expect to spend 3-4 days recovering in the hospital before returning home, followed by a period of activity and work restrictions. During this time, you will have follow-up visits with your doctor to monitor your recovery and improvement of symptoms.
Again, your doctor will recommend the treatment option that best suits your individual condition. Generally speaking, he or she may recommend surgery if your acoustic neuroma is in an easily accessible location and if you do not have complicating health conditions that make you a poor surgical candidate. In general, the younger you are, the more likely your doctor will be to recommend surgery for acoustic neuroma in NJ. Additionally, patients with very large acoustic neuromas may require surgical resection before follow-up with adjunct therapy, which means the doctor removes as much as possible with surgery first.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Acoustic Neuroma
Another treatment option available to acoustic neuroma patients in the tri-state area is Gamma Knife radiosurgery, an advanced form of radiation therapy. Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses nearly 200 individual beams of low-dose energy to target a highly focused area. This allows the surgeon to treat just your tumor, sparing healthy surrounding tissue. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an outpatient procedure, which means you will not need to stay overnight in a hospital. Many patients are treated in only a single session, although this depends on the size and location of your acoustic neuroma may require up to five treatments.
Your doctor may recommend Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat your acoustic neuroma if it is very small or in an area that is difficult to access with surgery. This would be considered primary treatment. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is also an excellent treatment option for an acoustic neuroma patients who are not good surgical candidates due to complicating health conditions, including advanced age.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery can also be used as an adjunct therapy following surgery. As discussed earlier, sometimes a surgeon will need to resect (remove) a portion of a very large tumor, but some tumor cells will remain and need to be treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery to prevent the tumor from recurring. This is when it would be considered a secondary treatment.
Work with a Specialist to Find the Right Treatment for You
Now that you have a more developed understanding of your acoustic neuroma and the treatment options available, you can take this information with you into your next appointment. Your personal doctor is the best person to explain why one treatment will be more appropriate than the others based on your individual condition. Because you have taken the time to educate yourself, you will likely find that you will be able to play a more active role in your discussions moving forward.
As you move forward with your acoustic neuroma surgery in NJ or any other treatment, continue to learn as you go, asking questions of your doctor along the way. Self-education is an excellent way to develop confidence in your treatment, helping to provide you with peace of mind every step of the way.