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What is Schwannoma?

A schwannoma is the abnormal growth of Schwann cells, which line and insulate nerves. It is usually benign and rarely spreads to affect other tissues and organs, but malignant schwannomas that spread are called neurofibrosarcomas or malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNSTs). The cancer can occur anywhere in the body but the most common areas include:

  • 8th cranial nerve (controls hearing)
  • sacral plexus (network of nerves in the lower back)
  • brachial plexus (network of nerves controlling the arm)
  • sciatic nerve (nerve of the leg)

Symptoms of Schwannoma

Schwannomas affect the organ or region that the nerve supplies. Symptoms include swelling on the face with or without pain, ringing in the ears or hearing loss, loss of balance and coordination, and pain, soreness, or formation of a lump in the arms or legs.

Diagnosis of Schwannoma

Schwannomas can be diagnosed with the help of physical and neurological examinations, imaging tests (CT scan and MRI) and biopsy (microscopic examination of the tumour tissue sample).

Treatment for Schwannoma

Treatment most frequently requires the removal of the tumour through surgery. Radiation therapy (high-intensity radiation) and chemotherapy (medication) may also be performed individually or in combination to kill the cancerous Schwann cells and stop them from recurring.

  • King's College London
  • Stanford University
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • The Royal College of Surgeons of England