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Peripheral Nerve Tumours

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What are Peripheral Nerve Tumours?

Peripheral nerve tumours are growths in or near the strands of nerves that transmit signals from your brain to the rest of your body. They can occur anywhere in the body and most often are not cancerous (malignant) although they can cause discomfort, nerve damage, and loss of function in the affected area.

What are the Causes of Peripheral Nerve Tumours?

The exact causes of peripheral nerve tumours are unknown. Some of them are associated with inherited diseases like neurofibromatosis (types 1 and 2) and schwannomatosis. Others are brought on by a faulty gene or triggered by an injury or surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve Tumours?

Signs and symptoms of peripheral nerve tumours include:

  • Swelling
  • Lump under your skin
  • Pain, tingling, or numbness
  • Weakness or loss of function in the affected area
  • Dizziness 

Diagnosis of Peripheral Nerve Tumours

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical and neurological examination will be performed. Your doctor may also recommend the following diagnostic tests:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: The MRI study uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the area affected by nerve damage.
  • Electromyography (EMG): A thin-needle electrode inserted into your muscle records the electrical activity of your muscle at rest and in motion in an EMG. Nerve damage can be indicated by decreased muscular activation.
  • Nerve Conduction Study: During this study, the electrical signals that flow through your nerves are measured using electrodes inserted at two separate places on your body.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan: This is an imaging technique that uses special x-rays to obtain cross-sectional images of the internal structures of the body. A contrast material or dye may be administered intravenously to obtain a more detailed view.
  • Tumour Biopsy: If imaging tests reveal a nerve tumour, your doctor may take a small sample of cells (biopsy) from the tumour for laboratory analysis. You may require local or general anaesthesia for the biopsy, depending on the size and location of the tumour. 

What are the Treatments for Peripheral Nerve Tumours?

Treatment options for peripheral nerve tumours include:

  • Regular Monitoring: If the tumour is in a location that makes removal problematic or if the tumour is small, slow-growing, and causes few or no signs and symptoms, monitoring its growth may be an option. Regular examinations are required, and you may be subjected to CT or MRI scans every few months to determine whether your tumour is developing.
  • Surgery: A peripheral nerve tumour may require surgery if it is malignant. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumour while preserving healthy tissue and nerves in the surrounding area. When this isn't an option, doctors will remove as much of the tumour as feasible and use radiation therapy or chemotherapy to destroy the non-resectable parts of the tumour. Microsurgery's high-powered microscopes make it easier to identify a tumour from healthy tissue. During surgery, doctors can also check the function of nerves, which helps to retain healthy tissue.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery: Your doctor may recommend stereotactic radiosurgery to treat some peripheral nerve tumours in or around the brain.  Stereotactic radiosurgery options, such as gamma knife radiosurgery can administer radiation to a tumour accurately without the doctor having to make an incision.
  • The Society of British Neurological Surgeons
  • British Orthopaedic Association
  • Maharshi Dayanand University