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​​​What is Schwannoma?

Schwannomas are tumors of the tissue that covers the nerves and are usually noncancerous, or benign; these tumors develop from a type of cell called a Schwann cell. Even though schwannomas can occur​ in any nerve in the body, the most common areas include the nerves of the head and neck and those involved with moving the arms and legs. These tumors are usually slow-growing.

What causes schwannoma tumors?

As with many tumors, the cause of Schwannoma tumors is unknown. Sometimes, they occur in people with certain disorders including some types of neurofibromatosis. In these cases, affected people have multiple tumors that are due to mutations in a gene.

What are the symptoms of schwannoma tumors?

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • A slow-growing mass and an electric-like shock when affected area is touched
  • One-sided hearing loss and buzzing or ringing​ in the ear
  • Dizziness, although it is less common
  • Facial paralysis if the tumor affects the facial nerve
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Impaired eye movement
  • Taste disturbances
  • Unsteadiness

What causes schwannoma tumors?

As with many tumors, the exact cause of Schwannoma is unknown. These tumors can sometimes occur in people with certain disorders including some types of neurofibromatosis; in these cases, affected people have multiple tumors that are due to mutations in a gene.

How are schwannoma tumors diagnosed?

Genetic testing is not available for many people with schwannomas since most of these tumors occur sporadically and are no cause by a genetic mutation. However, genetic testing is an option for individuals with an inherited condition that predisposes to schwannomas such as certain kinds of neurofibromatosis. Carrier testing or at-risk relatives and prenatal testing are possible if the disease-causing mutation in the family is known. In addition to a complete physical exam and medical history, the following may be ordered by your physician:

  • X-ray; this is a fast and painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. X-ray involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.
  • Ultrasound; this test​​ involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation (x-ray). Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.
  • MRI; this test uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed images of areas of your body.​​
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What treatments are available for schwannoma tumors?

The best treatment options for schwannoma depends on several factors including the size and location of the tumor, whether the tumor is benign or malignant, and your age and overall health. Following surgery or treatment, regular follow-ups with physical exams and imaging​ with your physician is recommended since there is a chance that the tumor​​ may return. ​​

  • Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
  • Radiosurgery (stereotactic​ radiosurgery) or gamma knife treatment; this uses one high dose of radiation sent right into the cancerous tissue and causes​ less damage to nearby tissues. It is not actually surgery, but like surgery; it is a one session treatment that removes the tumor.
  • Radiation; this is used for killing off tumor cells and limiting the growth of the tumor
  • Chemotherapy; this involves the use of medications that stop the growth of the tumor and can be given orally or through an IV.​