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Schwannoma (Neurilemoma)

  • Schwannoma, also called neurilemoma, is a benign tumor that can arise from any nerve in the body, although it tends to favor certain nerves located in the head and neck along with nerves that are involved with flexing in the upper and lower extremities. The tumor is made up of Schwann cells, that grow abnormally. Normally Schwann cells coat the axon of neurons (nerve cells)

    These tumors are non-aggressive and easily treated. Originating in the nerve sheath, the membrane that covers the nerve, they are usually easily separated from the nerve in surgery without any disturbance to the nerve's function. They can occur in children but more commonly affect young adults.

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Ave
    Fegan 2
    Boston MA 02115 

    617-355-6021
    fax: 617-730-0456

  • What causes schwannoma?    

    The cause of schwannoma is unknown. These tumors sometimes occur in patients with von Recklinghausen disease (neurofibromatosis). 

    What are the symptoms of schwannoma? 

    Patients with tumors that affect nerves close to the surface of the body will likely discover a mass sooner than those with a tumor that affects a deep-seated nerve, which may grow large before it is discovered. The following are the most common symptoms of schwannoma. Keep in mind that patients may experience symptoms differently, depending on the location of the tumor. Symptoms include:

    • Painless or painful mass that is slow-growing
    • Electric like shock when affected area is felt (Tinel shock)

    Usually no neurological problems or loss unless the tumor involves a major motor or sensory nerve or is compressed between the tumor and a rigid structure.

    The symptoms of schwannoma may resemble those of other medical conditions. Always consult a physician for a diagnosis.

  • In addition to undergoing a complete physical exam and medical history, your child may have one or more of the following tests:

    • X-ray - a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. Neurofibromas are not seen well on x-rays, but they should be obtained to ensure that the adjacent bone is not involved.
    • Ultrasound - an imaging technology that uses high frequency sound waves to view internal organs and structures and produce diagnostic pictures of the human body. Ultrasound is sometimes useful to detect soft tissue masses.
    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
    • Biopsy of the tumor - A simple surgical procedure during which a tissue sample from the tumor is taken and then viewed under a microscope.
  • The exact treatment for schwannoma may vary from child to child, depending on :

    • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
    • extent of the disease
    • your child's tolerance for specific procedures, or therapies
    • how your child's physician expects the disease may progress
    • your opinion or preference

    Surgery to separate and remove the tumor from the nerve is usually the treatment of choice for schwannomas. Fortunately, this condition is curable and should not recur.

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