I'm sorry you and your partner have to deal with an acoustic neuroma, but I'm pleased you've discovered the ANA website and these forums.
As Phyl ('Ppearl214
') stated: with the relatively small size of your partner's AN, there is no need for undue haste in making a decision on treatment. However, we can understand his emotions (and yours) at this time because we've all experienced them after receiving the AN diagnosis. That being the case, although we're not physicians, we can
offer practical suggestions - and lots of support for both of you. You asked about experiences so I'll take the liberty of offering mine, with the hope that it will be an encouragement to both of you.
I was 63, in good health - and concerned about facial paralysis after receiving my diagnosis of a large AN pressing on my brainstem (not good). Even though my symptoms were not severe, my surgeon was quite alarmed. So much so that he scheduled my surgery to take place within a fortnight. It ended up being three weeks, and I went through the usual angst, even though I knew that the tumor was benign and that I had a better chance of winning the lottery than having the surgery kill me. Much like your partner, I searched the internet for information about acoustic neuromas and their treatment and came to the conclusion that facial paralysis was the biggest possible adverse effect of the upcoming surgery. That, naturally, concerned me. My neurosurgeon, a man with decades of surgical experience removing acoustic neuromas, assured me that, although he couldn't absolutely guarantee anything (which I understood), he would employ facial nerve monitoring during the surgery and do all that he possibly could to spare the 7th cranial nerve (the 'facial' nerve). His plan was to 'de-bulk' the large AN (4.5 cm) that is, to reduce it's size by basically hollowing it out and cutting off it's blood supply. Then, after a period of cranial healing (three months), to have the remaining tumor treated with irradiation (FSR- fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy
) intended to destroy the tumor's DNA, thus, effectively killing it. I wholeheartedly agreed with this 2-step approach, even though it involved surgery plus radiation, because my trusted neurosurgeon and the bright young radiation oncologist he worked with on 'plotting' my FSR treatments, were highly confident of success, meaning a desiccated tumor.
Long story short - the retrosigmoid approach
surgery went smoothly with no permanent post-operative complications (i.e. facial paralysis). With the exception of being deaf in the affected ear, as I was prior to my diagnosis, my symptoms disappeared. Three months later, I began a tedious but painless series of FSR treatments; 26 in all, one a day (about 25 minutes), five days a week for five weeks - and one day. I had no ill effects from the 'low-dose' radiation. My last MRI scan (August, 2008) showed definite tumor necrosis (cell death) and shrinkage. I was elated.
Today, some 33 months later, I've basically resumed my life. I'm a Deacon in my church, I enjoy getting out and my wife and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary in August. Granted, as a retiree, I don't have the stress of work, but I'm active and have a full life, including the time I give to this website with the intention of helping others with this somewhat rare condition.
My best advice to help assuage your partner's fears is to reassure him that this is not only a benign tumor but that post-surgical facial paralysis can be avoided. Even if it occurs, it's often temporary. If not, there are various surgical procedures available to address this situation. In addition, as Phyl
stated, (non-invasive) radiation is another possibility and surgery does not have to assumed to be the sole option available to him. Be aware that radiation isn't a panacea and also carries risks but remains an option for small ANs. Unfortunately, my AN was too large to consider radiation, but had it been smaller upon discovery, I would have seriously considered it.
I sure you'll receive many other replies and suggestions on this thread. I trust they'll be of some help to you. Meanwhile, know that many will be thinking of you and your partner and that we stand ready to offer whatever help we can give along with our full support. Please consider this website a resource. We want to help. Jim