Treatment for Peripheral Nerve Tumors

The Department of Neurosurgery at Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health treats rare disorders of the nervous system, including peripheral nerve tumors. These nerve sheath tumors can occur anywhere in the body, and are usually benign (noncancerous). However, they can cause nerve damage and loss of function in the affected area, as found in the disorder neurofibromatosis and the related disorder, schwannomatosis, in which many benign tumors appear throughout the body. Peripheral nerve sheath tumors are rarely cancerous, and usually grow slowly. These tumors may also be caused by a defective gene, or triggered by an injury. A history of radiation treatment can also increase your risk of developing peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

Peripheral nerve tumors are uncommon and should be treated by neurology physicians to ensure the best possible outcome. Our hospital is staffed with board-certified neurologists, neurosurgeons, and other expert support staff.

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Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve Tumors

Signs and symptoms of peripheral nerve sheath tumors vary based on which tissues they affect, but in general include a painful, swollen lump under the skin, weakness, loss of function in the area, and dizziness or difficulty balancing.

Diagnosis of Peripheral Nerve Tumors

A peripheral nerve tumor is usually found incidentally when a physician does imaging scans on a patient for another, unrelated reason. Sometimes, patients, will complain of pain in a specific area, leading the doctor to order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to check for the presence of a tumor.

A needle biopsy is necessary to diagnose a peripheral nerve tumor definitively and determine whether it is cancerous. Doing a biopsy of the nerve may be necessary if you have a condition such as progressive peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral Nerve Tumor Treatment

Peripheral nerve tumors become problematic when they interfere with normal activities, cause pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Usually, these tumors can be removed without destroying any nerves or harming the functions these nerves perform. For most patients, waiting and watching to see if the tumor grows is an option, particularly if it’s location makes it difficult to remove, or if the tumor is small. Regular checkups using imaging scans are useful for monitoring the status of a peripheral nerve tumor. Typically, these checkups occur every few months.

If you are a candidate for surgery, the goal is to keep the entire tumor intact when removing it so as not to damage any nearby, healthy tissues. If this isn’t possible, your neurosurgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible, and may recommend radiation therapy instead of surgery, which can kill tumor cells. Successful surgery can relieve symptoms, but it is possible for tumors to grow back.

If your peripheral nerve sheath tumor is cancerous, it may be treated with a combination of surgery, chemo, and radiation therapy, but tumors may recur after treatment and/or spread to other areas of the body.

Request an appointment online now or call 833-656-3876.