Learn more about growths that form on nerves connecting to the spinal cord. Surgery is the most common nerve tumor treatment.
Peripheral nerve tumors are growths in or near the strands of tissue (nerves) that transmit signals from your brain to the rest of your body. These nerves control your muscles so that you can walk, blink, swallow, pick things up and do other activities.
Peripheral nerve tumors can occur anywhere in the body. Most of them aren't cancerous (malignant), but they can lead to pain, nerve damage and loss of function in the affected area.
Treatment of peripheral nerve tumors usually involves surgery to remove the tumor. Sometimes the tumor can't be removed without damaging nearby healthy tissue and nerves. In these cases, other treatments may be recommended.
Several types of peripheral nerve tumors occur. These tumors affect nerves by growing within them (intraneural tumors) or by pressing against them (extraneural tumors).
The symptoms and signs of a peripheral nerve tumor develop from direct effects on the main nerve or from the tumor pressing on nearby nerves, blood vessels or tissues. As the tumor grows, it may be more likely to cause signs and symptoms, although tumor size doesn't always determine effects.
Signs and symptoms of peripheral nerve tumors vary depending on the location of the tumors and which tissues are affected. They include:
See your doctor when you have any of the symptoms listed, especially if you have a lump that grows rapidly.
It's not clear why most peripheral nerve tumors develop. Some are linked to known inherited syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis (types 1 and 2) and schwannomatosis. Others may be caused by a malfunctioning gene or triggered by injury or surgery.
Peripheral nerve tumors are more common in people who have:
Both noncancerous and cancerous peripheral nerve tumors can compress nerves, leading to complications, some of which may be permanent:
To diagnosis a peripheral nerve tumor, your doctor may ask you about signs and symptoms, discuss your medical history, and perform both a general physical and neurological exam. He or she may order several tests to help pinpoint the cause of your signs and symptoms.
Peripheral nerve tumors are uncommon. Ask your doctor if he or she is experienced in diagnosing and treating them. If needed, seek a second opinion.
Your peripheral nerve tumor treatment depends on the type of tumor you have, what nerves and other tissues it affects, and your symptoms. Treatment options for peripheral nerve tumors include:
Waiting and watching to see if the tumor grows may be an option if it's in a place that makes removal difficult or if the tumor is small, slow growing, and causes few or no signs and symptoms. You'll have regular checkups and may undergo CT or MRI scans every few months to see if your tumor is growing.
You may need surgery to remove a peripheral nerve tumor. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor without damaging nearby healthy tissue and nerves. When that isn't possible, surgeons remove as much of the tumor as they can.
New techniques and instruments allow neurosurgeons to reach tumors that were once considered inaccessible. The high-powered microscopes used in microsurgery make it easier to distinguish a tumor from healthy tissue. Doctors also can monitor the function of nerves during surgery, which helps preserve healthy tissue.
Depending on the location and size of your peripheral nerve tumor, surgery can cause nerve damage and disability. These risks are often based on the size and location of the tumor and the surgical approach used. Some tumors grow back.
Your doctor may recommend stereotactic radiosurgery to treat some peripheral nerve tumors in or around the brain. In stereotactic radiosurgery, such as Gamma Knife radiosurgery, doctors deliver radiation precisely to a tumor without making an incision.
Risks of radiosurgery include weakness or numbness in the treated area and treatment failure (continued tumor growth). Very rarely, the radiation could cause a cancer in the treated area in the future.
Malignant tumors are treated with standard cancer therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Early diagnosis and treatment are the most important factors resulting in good outcome. Tumors may recur after treatment.
After surgery, you may need physical rehabilitation. Your doctor may use a brace or a splint to keep your arm or leg in a position that helps you to heal. Physical therapists and occupational therapists can help you recover function and mobility lost due to nerve damage or limb amputation.
Dealing with the possibility of permanent complications of peripheral nerve tumors and deciding which treatment would be best for you can be quite stressful. Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:
Maintain a strong support system. Family and friends can help you as you go through this difficult time. Sometimes, though, you may find the concern and understanding of other people with a condition like yours especially comforting.
Your doctor or a social worker may be able to put you in touch with a support group.
If your primary care doctor thinks you have a peripheral nerve tumor, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the nervous system (neurologist) or a doctor trained in brain and nervous system surgery (neurosurgeon).
Before the appointment, you might want to prepare a list of answers to the following questions:
Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:
August 25th, 2021