Yes, there are cases in which an acoustic neuroma, a normally benign brain tumor, starts out as malignant.

Hamid R. Djalilian, MD, Director of Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, says, “Less than one in 10,000 acoustic neuromas are malignant.”

Let’s Do the Math
• In the U.S. every year, about one in 100,000 people are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.
• This means 2,500 Americans every year learn that they have this benign and slow growing tumor.
• In order for 10 U.S. people to be diagnosed with a malignant acoustic neuroma, 40 years would have to go by.

So if you think you might have an acoustic neuroma or were just diagnosed with one, and have read somewhere that they can become malignant, consider this:

In the next 12 months, you’re eight times more likely to be killed by a vending machine toppling over on you than the chance that your acoustic neuroma is malignant or will at some point turn into cancer.

That’s of course, assuming that you regularly get food and beverages from vending machines and rock them when your selected item gets stuck.

You should also worry more about the cork of a champagne bottle killing you than your acoustic neuroma being malignant.

About 24 people die every year from champagne bottle corks flying into the air.

Now maybe these statistics can’t be scientifically verified to pinpoint accuracy, but the point is that there are endless more things likely to kill you in life, from eating contaminated meat (5,000 U.S. deaths a year) to a heart attack to not wearing a seatbelt, that it makes zero sense to spend even one second fearing that you might have, or get, a malignant acoustic neuroma.

“Only a handful of cases of de-novo [from the beginning] malignancies of the vestibulocochlear nerve have been reported,” states a Sept. 2010 issue of Skull Base.

The paper continues, “Even rarer is the malignant transformation of a previously histologically diagnosed benign vestibular schwannoma.”

This can result from radiation therapy (just a few cases on record).

The aforementioned data should put all of your fears to rest. If not, then you may as well worry every day about getting killed by a horse: You’re 80 times more likely to suffer that fate than get a malignant acoustic neuroma.

dr. djalilianDr. Djalilian’s areas of expertise include complex ear surgery, hearing loss, balance disorders, facial nerve paralysis and skull base surgery. He conducts research in several areas related to cochlear implants and acoustic neuroma.