Peripheral Nerve Tumors

Tumors of almost any type can form along peripheral nerves. Most commonly, these are entirely benign tumors that do not metastasize to other parts of the body. Generally slow growing, these tumors can form within the substance of the nerve itself, and cause the nerve to gradually expand. Untreated nerve tumors begin to compress the adjacent nerve fibers, causing nerve dysfunction. Patients may experience pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the distribution of the affected peripheral nerve.

There are many types of peripheral nerve tumors, including schwannomas, neurofibromas, and sheath tumors. There are several factors in deciding to surgically remove these tumors. Some, like schwannomas are slow-growing and can be watched using imaging studies over time. Others, like malignant nerve sheath tumors need to be removed immediately, as they are very aggressive.

Peripheral nerve tumors are typically benign lesions that develop within a nerve. They are often slow growing and are discovered when the patient notices an enlarging lump. Tapping the lump will bring on pain and/or a tingling sensation downstream in the skin territory that the nerve supplies. When the tumors grow within the nerve in an area of restriction or become large, the normal fibers within the nerve become compressed. Symptoms then develop and include pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness. The treatment in some cases is periodic examination and serial imaging. In other cases, surgical removal is recommended. Despite the fact that these tumors grow within a normal nerve, they can usually be removed safely provided the treating surgeon realizes that the lump is a nerve tumor and has experience removing these tumors.