• Schwannoma Overview

    Schwannoma (also called neurilemoma) is a benign tumor that can arise from any nerve in the body, but  tends to favor certain nerves located in the head and neck, as well as nerves that are involved in flexing the upper and lower extremities. These tumors are generally non-aggressive and easily treated.  They arise in the nerve sheath, the membrane that covers and provides insulation to the nerve cells.  These tumors typically occur in young adults, but can be diagnosed in children.  The cause is unknown, but they may occur in patients with Neurofibromatosis type 2.

    Schwannoma  Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s

    Patients with schwannomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders Center through the Solid Malignancies Center. Continue reading to learn more about schwannomas or visit the Solid Malignancies Center homepage to learn about our expertise.

    Symptoms & Diagnosis

    Patients with tumors that affect nerves close to the surface will likely discover a mass sooner than those with a tumor affecting a more deep-seated nerve. The most common symptoms of schwannoma include:

    • Painless or painful mass that is slow-growing
    • Electric-like shock, called Tinel shock, when the affected area is touched

    Neurological problems usually don’t occur unless the tumor involves a major motor or sensory nerve, is located adjacent to the spinal cord, or if the nerve is compressed between the tumor and a rigid structure in the body.  Schwannomas that are located on the vestibular nerve (hearing nerve) may cause hearing loss and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

    In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, schwannomas are diagnosed by:

    • X-ray
    • Ultrasound
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
    • Biopsy to confirm the diagnosis

    After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

    Treatment & Care Options

    Neurosurgery to remove the tumor from the nerve is the treatment of choice for schwannoma. This rarely disturbs the nerve’s function. Review of family history and other diagnostic criteria for neurofibromatosis type 2 is important for children diagnosed with schwannoma. Radiation therapy may be used following surgery to kill any remaining tumor cells.

    Long-term Outlook

    Schwannoma very rarely recurs.  Schwannoma is curable and should not recur. If a tumor does come back in the same place, it usually means that it was not completely removed.