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Schwannoma - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures, Diagnosis

Updated on November 30, 2013

Pictures

What is Schwannoma?

This is a non-cancerous tumor that generally affects your nerve fibers. It is also known as "neurilemmoma" or "vestibular schwannoma". This medical condition involves the Schwann cells found in the protective covering of your nerves called as "myelin sheath". Wherever these cells are, you can get Schwannoma. Usually there is only one tumor that develops but there may be multiple ones present. When people develop Schwannomas, it affects the acoustic nerve, which is the eighth cranial nerve. This is the nerve that is responsible for balance and hearing sensations. Some physicians even call these "acoustic neuromas" because of the nerve it affects. Usually these tumors are found in people from the ages of fifty to sixty years old. Typically Schwannomas develop along the nerves of your neck and head. This is the type of tumor that grows slowly and can cause damage, pressure, or irritation to the nerve affected.

Symptoms

The symptoms that a person has depend on the cranial nerve involved. The common symptoms can include:

  • Loss of hearing
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Your neck feels stiff.
  • Movement that is uncoordinated, balance problems, falls, difficulty walking.
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Accumulation of fluid in your brain.
  • Headache
  • Painful or painless mass.
  • When the affect area is felt you have an electric-like shock feeling.

Cranial Nerve V

  • Paralysis of the facial muscle
  • Corneal reflex loss which is the reaction of closing your eyelid if someone touches your cornea.
  • Hearing loss.

Cranial Nerve VI

  • Vision that is doubled

Cranial Nerve VII

  • Bell’s palsy - distorted facial expressions and muscle weakness of the facial muscles due to sudden paralysis of your face.

Cranial Nerve X

  • Weakness in your nerve muscles, palate, and tongue.

A person may experience symptoms every day or once in a while. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Causes

The exact cause of this medical condition is not known but what they do know is that sometimes Schwannoma can be a genetic disorder or there is a family history of having "neurofibromatosis". The tumor is made from abnormally grown Schwann cells.

Diagnosis

A Schwannoma is usually diagnosed by doing an MRI scan without or with contrast, which mean they may run a die through your body in order to see the tumor. They may also do a CT scan. In other cases the physician may order a MR or CT angiogram to be done. Any of these tests will show your physician the size and location of the tumor. They may do a biopsy to make sure if the tumor is cancerous or non-cancerous. The physician will also do a neurological and physical examination to evaluate your symptoms.

Treatment

Normally the tumor stays outside of the nerve so it is usually easy to get rid of these types of tumors. Before treatment can be done your physician will do diagnostic testing to determine if you have Schwannoma. If the tumors are small and causing no symptoms or minimal symptoms your physician may just monitor the tumor instead of doing surgery. Your physician may also perform hearing tests to also help monitor the symptoms because Schwannomas usually affect the cranial nerve that involves balance and hearing.

If the patient is experiencing numbness, pain, or weakness, the physician may suggest having surgery to remove the tumor. This type of surgery is called "radiosurgery". Surgery is done to stop the tumor from growing any bigger and causing more problems. The surgery will help to reduce the pain, numbness, and weakness in eighty to ninety percent of the cases. After the surgery your physician may recommend that you have radiation therapy to help decrease your risk of them coming back because Schwannomas can come back if they are not completely removed. Usually the surgery is easy to do but if the Schwannoma is surrounding or close to a nerve that is important it could be damaged when the surgeon tries to remove the tumor. If the surgeon finds out that he cannot remove the tumor they may suggest using a high-dose radiation therapy to get rid of it.

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