Nerve Sheath Tumor

About Nerve Sheath Tumors

A nerve sheath tumor is a mass that grows out of the tissue lining of a nerve. Tumors can arise on any nerve in the body, including cranial, spinal and peripheral nerves. Typically, these tumors are noncancerous and grow slowly. Treatment is required only if the tumor is producing symptoms or growing significantly over time. The best treatment is surgical removal.

These tumors can occur as part of a genetic syndrome but most occur spontaneously with no known cause. When these tumors create pressure on a nerve, a person can feel back, arm or leg pain in addition to numbness or weakness.

The most common types of nerve sheath tumors include schwannomas and neurofibromas. The exact cause of most nerve sheath tumors is unknown, but some patients may inherit the condition from their family. When the condition is inherited, it is known as Neurofibromatoses.

Common Symptoms of Nerve Sheath Tumors

Some patients with a nerve sheath tumor experience no pain, but some possible symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • A tangible mass under the skin
  • Numbness or burning sensations
  • Weakness in the affected area

Diagnosis of Nerve Sheath Tumors

A physical examination combined with either an MRI or CT scan will help doctors diagnose a nerve sheath tumor.

Treatment Options for Nerve Sheath Tumors

For some patients, nonsurgical options are the best way to treat the tumor. Since the tumors are usually slow-growing, asymptomatic patients can receive follow-up examinations to track the growth of the tumor and then decide if surgery is needed.

If the tumor is more aggressive, it may need to be removed. The appropriate surgical option is developed on a case-by-case basis depending on the location of the tumor, the patient’s presentation and the patient’s wishes.