A Schwannoma, also called a neurilemmoma, is an abnormal growth, usually benign, of the Schwann cells that cover the myelin sheath of the nerve. Schwann cells form the covering of the myelin sheath around nerves in the peripheral nervous system.
A Vestibular Schwannoma, sometimes called an acoustic neuroma, grows on the sensory system that helps with balance (the vestibular system).
Causes and Symptoms of Schwannomas
Some Schwannomas, such as vestibular Schwannomas, do not have a genetic link. The most common symptoms are associated with the pressure the tumor puts on the vestibular system:
ringing in the ear
hearing loss, sometimes severe, but limited to one ear
Other Schwannomas can develop from schwannomatosis—an uncommon type of neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder. Instead of the vestibular nerve, the tumors occur on cranial, spinal and peripheral nerves. Severe pain is the most common symptom of this type of Schwannoma, caused by the pressure exerted on the nerves and spinal cord. Other symptoms can include:
weakness in the face
tingling, numbness or weakness
bowel or bladder issues
and lumps may form underneath skin from tumor development.
How Is a Schwannoma Diagnosed?
A vestibular Schwannoma is diagnosed using your medical history along with hearing tests and an MR scan of the head with a contrast dye. Other Schwannoma diagnosis will depend on the location of the abnormal growth and may include sensory testing and other imaging tests.
A biopsy, or tissue sample, will determine the type of cells that form the mass, along with grade and size of tumor.
Advance Treatments for Schwannoma at NSPC
Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC) is an award-winning private practice of leading physicians in the NY area. Our multi-disciplinary team includes radiation oncologists, endovascular neuroradiologists, neuro-oncologists, neurophysiologists, neuropsychologists and neurosurgeons—so you have a wide range of cancer treatment specialists helping you get the best treatment options available.
Since Schwannomas are generally very slow-growing or may even stop growing, sometimes—if you don’t have any symptoms or are not a good candidate for surgery—the best option is to wait. Regularly scheduled MRIs will assist your doctor in tracking the growth of the tumor.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery targets the tumor from multiple angles, with high dose radiation beam. The targeting is very precise and leaves healthy tissue near the tumor intact.
Gamma Knife Surgery is a type of radiosurgery that has been very successful in preventing tumors from growing.
Surgery is often recommended for larger tumors, depending on the location and other factors. Microneurosurgical techniques allow for faster recovery time, shorter hospital stays and less pain during healing. Since surgery can sometimes completely remove the tumor, recurrence is unlikely.
NSPC’s team of New York based specialists are here to help make sure Schwannoma patients receive the very best care and advice—and achieve the best possible outcomes. Contact us to arrange a consultation at one of our Long Island centers.