Dizziness a side effect of tumor growth

Posted9/5/2011 6:00 AM

Q. Dizziness is a common problem that you've addressed a lot. I suffered for over a year, having been diagnosed with Meniere's after a CT scan showed nothing. Much later, another doctor ordered an MRI that showed an acoustic neuroma. This condition isn't as uncommon as once thought. I would encourage anyone with continuing dizziness to have an MRI. It saved my life. I was successfully treated with a gamma knife procedure and have been fine ever since.

A. An acoustic neuroma (also known as a vestibular schwannoma) is a benign, slow-growing tumor on the primary nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain.


Symptoms occur as the tumor grows and presses on surrounding blood vessels, brain structures or nerves, leading to hearing loss on one side, tinnitus, facial numbness and weakness, vertigo, unsteadiness and a loss of balance. Rarely, it can grow large enough to compress the brainstem and become life-threatening. In some cases, hearing loss may become permanent.

Treatments include monitoring, radiation and surgical removal. In your case, you were successfully treated with a form of stereotactic radiosurgery, a type of radiation therapy. This option allowed the physician to deliver radiation directly to the tumor without affecting a larger portion of tissue. It doesn't involve any incisions, so it is non-invasive, and is especially beneficial for small or residual tumors. It can take several weeks, months or years before the effects of this radiation become evident. Risks include hearing loss, balance problems and facial weakness.

Q. I read your column daily but don't recall seeing my question before. My wife will eat a meal and then shortly after have a running bowel movement. She will declare that something she just ate must have made it happen. I've repeatedly explained to her that it's not possible to eat something and have it pass through a person that fast, that it takes many hours and possibly overnight. She insists she can eat something tainted now and within the hour it makes her run to the bathroom.

A. For most healthy adults, it takes 24 to 72 hours following a meal for it to be digested and excreted. It takes up to eight hours for it to pass through the stomach and into the small intestine. It then enters the large intestine for further digestion and absorption of fluids and nutrients. Elimination of undigested food residue begins after 24 hours, but complete elimination may take longer.

The rapid sensation your wife experiences may simply result from the new food stimulating the existing digestive process. I side with you on this one.

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