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We ask Mr Valenti what a schwannoma is and what symptoms to look out for.

What is it?

A schwannoma is a tumour which develops in the peripheral nervous system (the nerve system relating to systems other than the spine and brain).

Schwannoma's develop from Schwann cells; these are cells which form a myelin sheath for myelinated nerves.

The myelin sheath acts as a protective layer for nerve fibres. These Schwann cells can grow from this protective later into a tumour called a schwannoma. Once they start to grow, they form a lump under the skin.

Schwannoma's can start anywhere in the body. Their severity depends on whether they are benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). In most cases, schwannoma's are benign.

If benign schwannoma's are small and are not affecting nearby nerves, they are not considered serious. However, malignant schwannoma's can put pressure on nerves and require treatment.

A vestibular schwannoma is one of the most common types. The vestibular nerve is the nerve responsible for balance. However, this type of schwannoma doesn’t just effect balance, it can also cause deafness.

Did you know? Schwann cells were coined by Theodor Schwann, who discovered them in the 19th century.


As mentioned above, once a schwannoma is putting pressure on the nerve, a bump under the skin can appear. Depending on which limb the schwannoma is located, and it’s whereabouts and size, other symptoms include:

- Weak muscles

- Tinnitus

- Numbness

- Difficulty swallowing

- Co-ordination difficulties

- Back or neck pain at night

Despite the signs above, there are some schwannoma’s which do not produce any symptoms.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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