Schwannoma refers to a very rarely occurring peripheral nerve tumour, which is composed of a specialized cell type called Schwann cells, hence giving the ailment its name.
The nervous system in the body comprises several nerve endings at the outer surfaces and borders of organs and tissues. The Schwann cells are responsible for synthesizing the protective covering called myelin sheath that surrounds these peripheral nerves.
When these Schwann cells begin to proliferate to a vast extent, they get inflamed, displacing the other nerves in the region. As the Schwannoma begins to grow larger in size, the proper functioning of more bundles of nerves, called fascicles, as well as bony structures in that section is damaged and thus causes difficulties in the precise removal of the tumour alone.
Genetic aberrations usually give rise to Schwannomas which are benign tumours in a majority of instances, but in very seldom cases can become malignant, advancing to a neurofibrosarcoma.
Schwannomas can develop in any region of the body but are most commonly seen in the brain, neck, inner ear, legs and feet. The situations leading to tumour growths in the ears are termed as Acoustic Schwannoma or Vestibular Schwannoma and can cause permanent loss of hearing if left untreated.
Prompt medical care must be taken as soon as any unusual bumps in the body are noticed, to ensure complete removal of the Schwannoma and prevent it from progressing on to more severe forms of brain cancer.
- Prominent lump beneath the surface of the skin
- Burning sensation and pain in the swollen area
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty in hearing as in the case of otomycosis
Diagnosis and Treatment:
The cancer specialist also known as an oncologist, will enquire about the patient’s complete medical history and examine all signs of external inflammation on the skin, to look for any indications of Schwannoma.
Then, complex imaging scans are taken, to assess the nature of the tumour and gauge its level of progress and hindrance to nearby nerves. These tests consist of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computerized tomography).
The healthcare professional also conducts an electromyogram, to detect the electrical impulse activity of the affected nerves and extracts a tumour biopsy, to identify the genetic mutations triggering the Schwannoma.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the course of treatment is initiated depending upon the size of the tumour growth.
In case the schwannoma is very minor, the physician will regularly examine the tumor growth with a CT or MRI, to ensure the size does not increase.
When schwannomas cause a lot of discomfort, particularly in the head of the affected individual, the doctor will surgically remove the lump under general anesthesia, as it is still a benign brain tumour. Also Read: Understanding Brain Tumours
3. Radiation Therapy
This technique is employed on the patient when the schwannoma has rapidly enlarged in size, to destroy the large tumorous cluster from causing any further agony to the patient.
4. Stereotactic Radiosurgery
In case the schwannoma is very close to a crucial blood vessel or nerve in the body, then the medical expert will utilize a high-precision procedure called stereotactic radiosurgery. This protocol guarantees no injury to the surrounding healthy tissues.