Glomus jugulare tumours are exceedingly rare but entirely benign tumours that arise within the bone of the base of the skull. They occur from very specialised cells in the wall of the jugular vein which drains blood from the brain. These are modified nerve cells (paragangliar cells) and as a result, a glomus jugulare tumour is also known as a paraganglioma. Even more rarely, they can be part of a genetic condition or people can have multiple paraganglioma tumours elsewhere in their body including in their neck or adrenal glands.
The symptoms that arise from a glomus jugulare tumour relate to their position deep within the skull base. The nearest structure to them is the inner ear and as a consequence, the most common presenting symptom is hearing related, either pulsatile tinnitus (noise within the ear corresponding with the heartbeat) or hearing loss. As they enlarge, they can also have an impact on the nerves for voice and swallowing and occasionally people can present with voice hoarseness and swallowing difficulties.
Due to their rarity, glomus jugulare tumours are typically only managed by a few specialists within the UK. The surgeons of the Brain and Spine Clinic have managed (including operated on) significant numbers and will be able to offer you all the benefits of this considerable expertise.
As with the vast majority of benign tumours occurring in the relatively inaccessible skull base, the management of a glomus jugulare tumour is very individualised and will be dependent on factors such as your symptoms, the size of the tumour as well as your other medical conditions. They are typically very slow growing and on occasion can appear to stop growing for periods. If symptoms are minimal, it is, therefore, entirely possible that you will simply be advised to undergo scan monitoring in the first instance.
The management of your tumour will not only be discussed between you and your surgeon, but also at a Skull Base Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Meeting. These are held fortnightly at Salford Royal Hospital, with a team of experts with a huge combined experience of managing such problems. Your surgeon will convey the outcome and recommendations of this meeting to you. Whilst this will provide you with all the information you require about your glomus jugulare tumour, as well as a detailed analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of all management options, the most important factor in the final decision is you. Your personal opinion of what is best for you is undoubtedly the most relevant aspect of how you will be managed.
If active treatment is felt to be necessary, this is described in greater detail in glomus jugulare tumour treatment options.