Tumors known as paragangliomas or glomus tumors can occur in the head and neck. These tumors can be categorized based on their location. These tumors are usually benign and slow growing. Glomus jugulare tumors are paragangliomas that occur at the base of skull and typically involve the ear, neck and sometimes extend inside the skull (intracranial) and press upon the brain. Although these tumors are usually benign they can cause damage to surrounding tissues. Sometimes these tumors run in families. Symptoms from glomus jugulare tumors arise from effects on surrounding tissues. Often these tumors have increase blood flow and hearing pulsations is a common symptom. Several nerves are in this location and hearing loss, problems swallowing, voice change, shoulder weakness, tongue weakness and facial weakness all can occur. Hearing loss and dizziness can also occur.
Glomus jugulare tumors often have unique imaging qualities that allow diagnosis on MRI scanning. CT scan often provides additional information that can help support the diagnosis. Often your doctor can see a portion of the tumor behind the eardrum. Definitive diagnosis is made by tissue evaluation.
In general, three different treatment approaches exist for glomus jugulare tumors - surgery, radiation and observation. Size, tissue involvement, symptoms, patient age and health all play a role in treating these tumors
Although each patient is unique, surgery is typically considered in cases with damaged nerves (especially affecting swallowing from the vagus nerve), larger tumors, tumors pressing on the brain and/or younger patients. Surgery may involve a team of surgeons as these tumors often involve the neck, ear and inside the skull. As glomus jugulare tumors usually are benign, in some cases a small amount of the tumor may be left near important areas such as the carotid artery.
Radiation in many cases can slow or halt the tumor's growth. Radiation often is considered in some situations for patients who are older, smaller tumors and/or without nerve injury already resulting from the tumor. In some cases after surgery a small portion of the tumor may remain or return and radiation may be offered.
Observation may be considered in patients who are older, small tumors, and/or without nerve injury already resulting from the tumor. Usually the tumor is monitored with repeated imaging. During the course of observation, surgery and/or radiation may later become more strongly recommended due to a change in symptoms or size of tumor.
Dr. Slattery is trained and skilled to provide treatment options for glomus jugulare tumors.