What is a Schwannoma?
A schwannoma is a benign tumor that grows in Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. Schwann cells make up the myelin sheath, which insulates and protects nerve fibers. Schwannomas can occur anywhere in the body, but they’re most commonly found in the head and neck.
Signs and Symptoms of a Schwannoma
The signs and symptoms of a schwannoma might depend upon its location in the body. Common ones include:
- numbness or weakness in the affected area of the body
- trouble hearing or pain
- muscle paralysis or difficulty with bladder or bowel control
- swelling, lumps, and pain in the affected area
Diagnosing a Schwannoma
A doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and review a patient’s medical history. Additional tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, may be ordered to better image the tumor and determine its size and location. If a tumor is suspected, a biopsy may be necessary to obtain a tissue sample for testing.
Treatments for Schwannomas
Depending on the size, location and symptoms of a schwannoma, treatment may include medications, surgery, or radiation therapy.
Tumors that are small and symptom-free can be managed without surgery. A doctor may prescribe medications, such as corticosteroids or anticonvulsants, to help reduce swelling and control pain associated with the tumor.
Surgery may be recommended for larger tumors or those causing significant symptoms. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor while minimizing damage to the surrounding nerves and tissue.
Radiation therapy, either through external-beam radiation therapy or brachytherapy, may be used to help shrink the tumor. This type of therapy is typically intended for patients with tumors that are inoperable or who are not good candidates for surgery.
Overall Health and Schwannomas
Schwannoma is a benign tumor, and the outlook is often positive. However, it’s important to maintain good health, as any medical condition that affects the peripheral nervous system can take a toll on overall health. If a schwannoma is treated early, it’s more likely to experience a good outcome.