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Acoustic Neuroma: Battling a Benign Brain Tumor?

I have been diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma. I realize that it will never go away, but I would like to manage its growth. Are there any holistic approaches you recommend?

Answer (Published 12/23/2008)

An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor arising from the eighth cranial nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain. These tumors usually grow very slowly, and often cause no symptoms, but as they enlarge, they can press against nerves involved with hearing and postural stability, leading to deafness on one side, ringing in the ear, dizziness, and balance problems.

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No one knows the cause of acoustic neuroma. Some evidence suggests that persistent exposure to very loud noise or heavy cell phone use may play a role in their development.

I know of no holistic treatments that can slow the growth of acoustic neuroma. If the tumor is small and isn't enlarging rapidly, you may not have to do anything about it other than have your doctor monitor it over time with periodic imaging exams (MRIs) and hearing tests. About 25 percent of all patients need no treatment. However, if symptoms such as hearing loss develop, the only treatment option is surgery. This can be done via gamma-knife radiosurgery in which radiation beams are aimed at the tumor. This does not require an incision, and only local anesthesia is necessary. Results are not immediate, and it can take weeks or months before symptoms resolve.

Alternatively, these tumors can be removed surgically under general anesthesia. Typically, patients spend four to six days in the hospital and need a recovery period of six weeks or more once they go home. Loss of hearing on the affected side is a major risk of the procedure.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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