A schwannoma is a kind of nerve sheath tumor that grows gradually and push nerve fibers aside, which transmits the messages from the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. Schwannomas are typically benign tumors that form in tissues surrounding the nervous system. It develops when Schwann cells begin to grow abnormally.
What causes schwanommas ?
The exact cause of the nonmalignant tumor is still unknown, but doctors believe neurofibromatosis type 1 or inherited disorders are the most common causes. Having schwannomatosis, a kind of genetic disorder can also increase the chances of diagnosed with this cancer. A small number of people can also be affected through higher radiation exposure.
Treatment of Schwannomas
Doctors diagnose schwannomas by performing medical checks on physical health and mental condition. Usually neurological tests along with imaging examinations are done such as CT or MRI to find the exact location of the tumor. A biopsy can be done to find out if the tumor cells are malignant.
Sometimes, the treatment is not necessary if the disease is not causing any symptoms such as swelling on face, painful or painless growth, hair loss, ringing in ear, weakness, numbness, etc. Minimal invasive surgery may be employed in some cases if the tumor is pressing on nerves that causes pain. Treatment options for Schwannoma are:
- Surgery: Probably the best option for treat schwannoma and remove its growth. It involves manually removing the tumor from its location without causing any neurological issues. Sometimes, radiation therapy is also used along with surgery to increase the effects of the procedure.
- Monitoring: As discussed above, in a few cases, schwannoma posses no threat and can only be recognized with another condition. In such cases, doctors simply monitor the patient’s health conditions and looks for signs and symptoms that increases the chances of further treatment. If the cancer is not spreading, then simple medicines along with living a healthy life can remove the tumor.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: In severe cases where surgery is not an option due to the age of the patient and the location of the tumor, doctors use high energy radiation beams from different angles to pinpoint the tumor and destroy it completely.
The complication rate of schwannomas treatments varies from patient to patient. It is about 20% in surgical procedure where the most common side effect is cerebro-spinal fluid leakage.
Other complications are as follows:
- Radiotherapy can cause new malignant gliomas
- Hearing loss
- Changes in taste
- Mouth dryness
- Facial nerve damage
- Imbalance or dizziness
Post operative care
After the treatment, it is very rare for Schwannoma to reoccur, but if it does come back due to inability of treatment to completely remove it, you will need to go through the treatment process again where the doctor will need to be shown the reports of previous treatment.
The patient will be given proper care in ICU to cope up with all types of neurosurgical and neurological injuries such as brain hemorrhage, stroke, trauma and tumors.
The family will be advised on how to take care of the patient at home and what measures to be done, if symptoms appear.
Regular visits to the doctor will be often, which will lessen with time.