A schwannoma, also known as a neuroma, is a benign tumor that develops in the protective sheathing surrounding the nerve cells. Schwann cells support the function of nerve cells, and schwannomas can develop anywhere Schwann cells are present. They may form in:
Spine: Spinal schwannomas can develop anywhere in and around the spine. They can press on the spinal cord and nerves causing pain, numbness and weakness. Read more about Spinal Schwannomas.
Cranial Nerves: Vestibular schwannomas, also called acoustic neuromas, sometimes develop in the eighth cranial nerve, which is the vestibulocochlear nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Read more about Vestibular Schwannoma/Acoustic Neuroma. Read about a woman whose facial pain was caused by a schwannoma of the trigeminal nerve.
Peripheral Nerve Sheath: Some tumors may form in the peripheral nerves. Read more about peripheral nerve sheath tumors.
A very small percentage of Schwannomas are malignant tumors called neurofibrosarcomas, but the majority of Schwann cell tumors are benign. A schwannoma often requires surgical removal even if it’s benign, because the pressure it creates as it grows can cause damage to the nerves and/or spine.
Reviewed by: Eric Elowitz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: September 2020