A schwannoma is a spinal tumor that arises from the lining of the nerve cells of the spine. The nerves of the spine are insulated by a protective sheath called myelin, which transmits nerve impulses throughout the body. Schwann cells create the myelin sheath of the nerves.
When a schwannoma tumor develops, it forms around the tissue of the myelin sheath. Most schwannomas are benign, only 2.5 percent are cancerous. However, when tumors grow large, they may compress the spinal nerves and cause symptoms such as tingling sensations, numbness, weakness, and pain in the lower limbs.
The doctor will conduct a physical exam and test the patient’s reflexes, muscle strength, and feelings of sensations on his or her skin. A biopsy may also be done to examine a section of the tumor under a microscope. CT scans, x-rays and MRI scans may also be performed.
Common schwannoma symptoms may include:
Surgery is the primary treatment for spinal schwannomas. UPMC neurosurgeons typically perform microsurgery to remove the tumor if the patient experiences symptoms such as weakness, numbness, or pain. Using a microscope and intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring, surgeons open the nerve and carefully remove the tumor.
For large tumors, radiation and chemotherapy may be used in conjunction with surgery. Spinal schwannomas may also be treated with stereotactic spine radiosurgery, which is a minimally invasive technique that uses highly focused beams of radiation to target spinal tumors. The beams destroy the tissue that a surgeon would otherwise need to remove with a scalpel during a traditional operation. The precision of this surgery results in minimal damage to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor, and no recovery time.
How can we help you?
Schedule anappointment >
Ask a question >
Request our expertopinion >
1-877-986-9862(within the U.S.)
Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.
UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.
Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.
For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com