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Nerve Tumors: Schwannomas and Neurofibromas

Occasionally tumors can develop from the cells that make up a nerve. These tumors most often just develop randomly, but occasionally they can occur as part of a syndrome such as neurofibromatosis. These generally grow slowly and may be noticed as a rubbery lump somewhere in the body. At times they can be more problematic, interfering with normal activities, causing numbness tingling or even pain and weakness.  When these tumors become problematic it is worthwhile to consider having them removed. Removal of these tumors can usually be performed without destroying the nerve.  In the most common situation, the tumor can be peeled out of the nerve itself and the nerve left functioning normally. 

Very rarely these tumors can actually be cancerous.  In these cases they are typically more problematic, painful and rapidly growing.  If there is any question it is important to get a needle biopsy or special study to be sure.  If the tumor is believed to be a cancerous, surgery is intended to remove all of the tumor including a large portion of the nerve it came from.  In these cases the nerve function can be later improved with the use of nerve transfers.