Don't panic!

Many AN patients have heard this from their surgeons:

The tumor won't get any smaller and you won't get any younger. The earlier we operate, the fewer complications you will have.

But at the 1999 ANA Milwaukee Symposium, Dr. Glenn Meyer said:

Acoustic neuromas are not surgical emergencies.

So how much truth is there in the surgeon's "song"?

It is true that your chances of good outcome are improved if you do not delay, provided that all of the following happens if you put off the operation:

  1. Your health and ability to recover deteriorates due to age.
  2. Your tumor grows significantly.
  3. Technology does not improve by then.
  4. You undergo surgery by the same surgeon and their level of expertise remains the same.

However, none of the these assumptions should taken for granted:

  1. A year or two of aging will not make any difference.
  2. Many ANs grow very slowly, and some do not grow at all after being diagnosed. Almost all patients can afford to wait 3-6 months and to find out their AN's rate of growth.
  3. Medical technology for ANs is improving all the time: MRIs, nerve monitoring, FSRs are all new.  Research to find tumor-battling drugs is proceeding furiously... With the current pace of improvements, it's worth waiting and examining all your options, if the tumor is not growing quickly.
  4. Your outcome depends more on the experience of your surgeon than on anything else. It's worth taking the time to find an AN specialist who can give you higher odds of a good outcome (or to let this one sharpen their skills some more).

Acting out of panic has landed more newly diagnosed AN patients in rushed botched surgeries than anything else. Patient beware!

Patient testimonials

(10/00) One of the many calls I received [last spring]... was from a gentleman in his late 40s who had a 4 mm AN and was being pressured by family and doctor to "get on and do something about it."... His AN was very small and not causing problems... He decided to have another MRI (6 months after the first) and wait for a while. He emailed me recently that it had been decided (after his second MRI) that his AN was not an AN, but something inconsequential... and his problems were solved.

(10/00) My HMO, Kaiser, authorized me to get radiotherapy at Stanford Medical Center when I made it clear I didn't want surgery.   My AN was diagnosed in August... When I start feeling resentful over the fact that no MRIs were ordered 15 years and 5 years ago when I went in over hearing loss, I get grateful because the new technology wasn't available then and it would have been watch and wait or surgery.

Last Edited: Friday, November 01, 2002