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About Vestibular Schwannoma
The vestibulocochlear nerve is the cranial nerve responsible for hearing and balance. A vestibular schwannoma is a tumor that arises from this nerve. Treatment options for vestibular schwannoma include monitoring, surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery at a Gamma Knife center. A doctor will make treatment recommendations based on the individual’s condition and personal health history. These tumors are benign (not cancerous) and grow slowly, but they can still cause issues by impinging on nearby tissues.
Vestibular Schwannoma Development
The cause of vestibular schwannoma is believed to be linked to a problem with a gene on chromosome 22, although the details are still unknown. These tumors tend to occur on only one side of the brain. Some patients with a rare disorder called neurofibromatosis type 2 are at higher risk and tend to develop tumors in both ears. Vestibular schwannoma diagnosis tends to be made in patients between the ages of 30 and 60.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Vestibular Schwannoma
Some patients with vestibular schwannoma will not experience any symptoms. Others may experience:
- Hearing loss and/or ringing in the affected ear
- Balance issues and difficulty walking
- Facial numbness or weakness
- Hydrocephalus (a buildup of fluid in the brain)
If a doctor suspects a patient may have a vestibular schwannoma, he will likely perform an ear exam and hearing test to evaluate the function of the vestibulocochlear nerve. He may also order diagnostic imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Treatment of Vestibular Schwannoma
A doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on the tumor size and location, as well as the individual’s overall health condition. Available vestibular schwannoma treatments include:
- Surgery: The surgeon removes all or part of the tumor, often followed by radiation therapy.
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery: Using a technology such as the Leksell Gamma Knife®Icon™, a targeted beam of radiation is delivered directly to the tumor, shrinking it while sparing healthy surrounding tissue.
- Monitoring: For asymptomatic patients with small tumors, careful monitoring for tumor growth before initiating treatment may be a desirable option.
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