A nerve sheath tumour is a mass that grows out of the tissue lining of a nerve. These tumours can occur as part of a genetic syndrome but mostly have no known cause. When the condition is inherited it is called Neurofibromatoses. The most common types of nerve sheath tumours include schwannomas and neurofibromas. These tumours are normally slow growing and in the majority of cases are benign (noncancerous).Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours are rare, but can occur. Surgery is required if the tumour is growing significantly over time or is causing pain. When these tumours grow, they place pressure on the nerve causing pain as well as numbness and weakness.
Patients with nerve sheath tumours don’t always have pain. Common symptoms include:
- Weakness in the affected arm or leg
- Numbness, burning and tingling along the affected arm or leg
- A palpable mass under the skin
Nerve sheath tumours are diagnosed with a combination of neurological examination and an MRI scan visualise the size and exact location of the tumour
Patients who are asymptomatic may not require surgery, and can be managed conservatively with regular follow up to track the growth of the tumour.
If the tumour is symptomatic and causing pain, surgery is recommended. This is usually undertaken in conjunction with nerve monitoring equipment in order to maximise resection and minimise risk.