Head & Neck Cancer

Head & Neck Cancer

Schwannomas/Acoustic Neuromas

Schwannomas—also known as acoustic neuromas—are tumors that begin in the Schwann cells covering the acoustic nerve in the brain. These typically benign, slow-growing tumors account for just under 10 percent of central nervous system tumors in adults and are usually curable. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our head and neck cancer specialists are experienced in the care of people of all ages with schwannomas/acoustic neuromas, including vestibular schwannomas and those associated with neurofibromatosis. We use leading-edge therapies designed to treat your tumor while aiming to preserve your hearing.


A Team of Specialists

Because of the complexity and rarity of schwannomas/acoustic neuromas, treatment with observation, surgery, or radiosurgery should be directed by doctors with extensive experience in the management of these tumors. Our teams include head and neck surgeons, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, and others with experience in schwannoma treatment. This team approach enhances your chance of a good outcome.


Advances in Acoustic Neuroma Treatment

Older surgical treatments for schwannomas/acoustic neuromas often caused hearing loss in the affected ear. But today's treatment options have a greater chance of preserving your hearing while relieving symptoms and preventing or slowing the progression of the tumor. At NewYork-Presbyterian, we offer stereotactic radiosurgery as a treatment option, along with state-of-the-art microsurgical techniques that preserve the acoustic nerve and are less likely to cause hearing loss than older surgical approaches. Advanced monitoring of your auditory function during surgery also improves our ability to preserve your hearing.


Expertise in Skull Base Surgery

Schwannomas are often surgically removed. Even though they are benign, such tumors of the skull base can cause serious complications, such as hearing loss and impairment of coordination and balance. They must be treated before they grow so large that they compress vital structures like the cerebellum and the brain stem, where they could eventually become life-threatening.

  • NewYork-Presbyterian has exceptional experience in skull base surgery, using innovative minimally invasive techniques that make the removal of many skull base tumors possible without large incisions in the face or head.
  • With advances in medical imaging, it has become possible for our surgeons to remove or reduce the size of an acoustic neuroma without destroying the nerve. Using microsurgery, your surgeon can operate on the nerve with an enhanced view offered by a surgical microscope.


Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Acoustic Neuroma

NewYork-Presbyterian offers stereotactic radiosurgery for patients with smaller schwannomas/acoustic neuromas and for older patients with these tumors who cannot have surgery. Techniques such as Gamma Knife radiosurgery involve the use of a highly focused beam of radiation to target the tumor.

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery does not require open surgery and poses less threat to functional areas of the brain.
  • We also use radiosurgery to destroy the remnants of larger tumors (greater than three centimeters in diameter) left behind during conservative surgery to preserve facial function.
  • We may give radiosurgery as a single high dose of radiation in one session, or several lower doses delivered over multiple sessions ("fractionated radiosurgery").


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