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What is a schwannoma?

A schwannoma is a non-cancerous (benign) tumor that is also known as neurilemmoma or vestibular schwannoma. Schwannomas are usually very slow-growing and originate from the eighth cranial nerve (the nerve of hearing), also known as the acoustic or vestibulocochlear nerve. Schwannomas are usually located in the angle between the pons and the cerebellum, in the back of your skull. The tumor comes from an overproduction of Schwann cells—the cells that wrap around nerve fibers to help support and insulate nerves. Schwannomas account for almost eight percent of all primary brain tumors.

Our approach

We take the most advanced approach when it comes to schwannoma tumors at the renowned Brain Tumor Center, part of Northwell Health Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Our specialists have decades of training and experience using the latest technologies and therapies. From diagnosis through treatment and follow-up, our patients are in the capable hands of some of the region's top tumor experts.

Each schwannoma brain tumor diagnosis and treatment plan is unique, so the team meets regularly to discuss each patient’s treatment. Our physicians participate in multidisciplinary conferences where brain tumor experts across multiple departments and disciplines share ideas and best practices for delivering the best possible collaborative patient care. The specialists at these conferences review each treatment plan to constantly improve care and ensure treatment milestones are reached.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of schwannoma include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Impaired eye movement
  • One-sided hearing loss and buzzing or ringing in the ear
  • Taste disturbances
  • Unsteadiness
  • Dizziness (although less common)

If the tumor affects the seventh cranial nerve (the facial nerve), facial paralysis may also occur.

Risk factors

The cause of schwannomas, like many other types of tumors, is unknown. However, it is believed to develop when there is a defect in a gene that normally prevents tumors from forming. They typically occur in middle-aged adults, and females are twice as likely as males to develop this type of tumor.

Types of treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with a schwannoma tumor, your doctor will discuss your options with you which may include observation, radiation and/or surgical removal of the tumor. As one of the country's most progressive cancer centers for tumors, we offer the most advanced treatments and services, including:

  • GliaSite radiation therapy system—Our center is one of the few facilities in New York state actively performing this procedure
  • Minimally invasive laser treatment—Pioneering the treatment of brain tumors with lasers that are inserted through the smallest possible incisions with the highest accuracy
  • Leading-edge surgical procedures (such as awake craniotomy)—Avoids damage to critical areas of the brain
  • Unique intra-operative magnetic resonance imaging (iMRI) —Guides surgery and ensures superior precision
  • Novalis® stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) —Delivers precise radiation beam shaping that targets tumors and protects healthy cells
  • Advanced chemotherapy treatment options
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