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Cancer Health Center

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Neurofibrosarcoma and Schwannoma

What Are the Symptoms of Nerve Sheath Tumors?

Symptoms of schwannomas can include:

  • A painless or painful growth or swelling on the face
  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ear (vestibular schwannoma)
  • Loss of coordination and balance (vestibular schwannoma)
  • Numbness, weakness, or paralysis in the face

Symptoms of neurofibrosarcomas can include:

  • Swelling or a lump in the arms or legs
  • Pain or soreness
  • Difficulty using the arms, legs, feet, or hands

How Are Nerve Sheath Tumors Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose nerve sheath tumors by doing a physical and neurological (brain and nervous system) examination. Usually they'll also perform imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans to pinpoint the location and size of the tumor. A biopsy (removing a tissue sample and examining it in the lab) can confirm whether the tumor is malignant.

How Are Schwannomas and Neurofibrosarcomas Treated?

Schawnnomas may not need treatment if they are not causing any symptoms. Surgery is sometimes needed if the tumor is pressing on a nerve causing pain or other problems. The most common treatment for neurofibrosarcomas is to remove them with surgery. Radiation therapy is often used after surgery to help decrease the risk of recurrence. However, surgery can be difficult if the tumor is very close to or surrounding an important nerve, because the surgeon could damage the nerve while trying to remove the tumor. In addition to surgery and radiation therapy, chemotherapy may also be needed. When a tumor can't be removed, high-dose radiation therapy may be used to target the tumor.

With neurofibrosarcomas, the doctor will remove the tumor and the tissue around it. Surgeons will try to remove the tumor without damaging too much of the affected arm or leg (called limb-salvage or limb-sparing surgery), but if the tumor can't be removed, the arm or leg might need to be amputated. Radiation and chemotherapy may be done before surgery to shrink the tumor so it can be removed more easily, or after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left behind.

Schwannomas usually don't come back if they are removed completely. The prognosis after treatment for neurofibrosarcoma depends on the size of the tumor, where it is located, and how far it has spread. Long-term survival can vary from person to person. It's possible for the cancer to return, even after aggressive treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 21, 2014
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