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Schwannoma is a slow-growing tumor stemming from the cells that protect the nerve fibers. These tumors can grow anywhere along the nerve system and are usually not cancerous. 

Schwannoma symptoms

Symptoms of schwannoma depend on where your tumor grows and can include the following:                

  • An electric shock feeling near the tumor
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ears, or tinnitus
  • Dizziness or troubles with balance
  • Back pain

Schwannoma: what you should know

  • Schwannomas commonly grow along your inner ear nerves that affect balance and hearing. Known as vestibular schwannomas or acoustic neuromas, these tumors can be life threatening if untreated.
  • Sometimes schwannomas grow near your spine, creating numbness, weakness and pain in your legs.
  • The cause of schwannomas is unknown. Sometimes people with other disorders, such as neurofibromatosis, seem more likely to develop schwannomas.

How can I get help for schwannoma?

Diagnosis of schwannoma can be difficult since early symptoms often are subtle. If a tumor is suspected, you will have medical tests to determine the type of mass.

For vestibular schwannomas or acoustic neuromas, these tests may include one or more of the following:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Hearing test (audiogram)

Care for schwannomas at Rush

At Rush, neurosurgeons collaborate with neurologists, neuroradiologists, critical care nurses and other specialists for your care.

  • Your treatment will depend on the following:
    • Size of your tumor
    • The location of your tumor
    • Your age and health
  • There are several treatment options for schwannoma. Your treatment may include one or more of the following options:
    • Surgery: When the tumor is small and easily accessible, it can be surgically removed. Often the procedure can save your hearing and your improve symptoms.
    • Radiation: For tumors in places that are difficult to reach by surgery, radiation often is used. Sometimes it is used in combination with surgery.
    • Radiosurgery: Radiosurgery, or the gamma knife, reduces the size of the tumor or limits its growth. This therapy can deliver higher doses of radiation with greater precision than traditional radiation therapy techniques. For tumors outside the brain, Rush offers fractioned stereotactic radiosurgery, which uses small doses of radiation over many sessions instead of one large dose.
    • Monitoring: If the tumor is not causing complications, often the doctors leave it alone. This is especially true for patients who are elderly or have other serious illnesses that make treatment risky.

Why choose Rush for schwannoma care

  • Specialists at the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive brain tumor and spine tumor clinics at Rush have extensive experience treating schwannoma and many other types of tumors.
  • The neurology and neurosurgery programs at Rush are consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Departments and programs that treat this condition