Diagnosis of a peripheral nerve sheath tumors involves begins with a comprehensive history to learn the evolution of the patient’s symptoms as well as the family’s health history. The doctor will then perform a neurologic and physical exam to check for any signs of numbness, weakness, or abnormal reflexes, and examine the body for swelling or bumps. A thorough dermatologic exam for any skin lesions and a hearing test may be ordered, as well as blood tests and genetic testing, which may uncover certain inherited syndromes.
There are several imaging tests that the medical team at Weill Cornell Medicine Brain and Spine Center can perform to diagnose a peripheral nerve sheath tumor, pinpoint its location, see what structures it is affecting, and decide on the best treatment options. They include:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a high-powered magnet without radiation to produce detailed, three-dimensional images of the nerves and surrounding tissue
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear medicine study that creates multidimensional color images that reveal how a mass may be functioning relative to surrounding normal tissue by tracing levels of chemical uptake; can be combined with MRI or CT scans and is most useful in differentiating benign from malignant tumors.
Electromyogram and nerve conduction studies (EMG/NCS) measure how effectively a nerve is relaying electrical impulses; detect the location and extent of damage in nerves and muscles
Ultrasound isa noninvasive test using sound waves to reveal a quick image of a mass deep to the skin and surrounding structures; can tell whether a mass is solid or fluid-filled, and what approximate size it is.
Based on these imaging results, a biopsy may be required to take a small sample of tissue from the suspected tumor and sent to a pathology lab for further analysis before deciding next steps.
Reviewed by Ibrahim Hussain, MD
Last reviewed/last updated July 2022