New work to tackle rare form of cancer

01 July 2012

Mr Richard Irving

Mr Richard Irving

Researchers at QEHB have begun new work to measure the impact of the different treatment options for patients with a rare form of cancer.

Acoustic neuroma is a rare condition in which a tumour grows on the acoustic nerve, which carries sensory input from the ears to the brain. This nerve is crucial for both hearing and balance.

Every year doctors at QEHB manage around 100 new patients with this form of cancer, which usually causes hearing impairment and balance problems.

This type of cancer very rarely spreads beyond the acoustic nerve but in many cases the original tumour does grow large enough to affect other parts of the brain.

This can lead to problems with a patient’s vision and causes facial paralysis but in the most serious cases the tumour can press on the brain stem and affect swallowing and breathing.

Treatment often involves surgery, although the entire tumour is not always removed.

Consultant ENT Surgeon Richard Irving is leading this research at QEHB: “We’re looking at the quality of life of patients who have been treated for acoustic neuroma, particularly comparing the outcomes of surgery compared with radiotherapy.”

The Trust’s team will use the ‘Penn Acoustic Neuroma Quality of Life’ scale (PANQOL), which was devised by doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“The aim is to validate or otherwise PANQOL for measuring the wellbeing of patients diagnosed with these rare tumours of the auditory nerve.

This will be done by sending copies of the questionnaire to patients who have been treated here since 1997,” he says.

“This is the first stage of a new effort to really analyse the health economic and quality of life issues around the treatment of acoustic neuroma.”