Understanding Schwannoma Development
- The nerves are insulated by a protective sheath known as myelin, which acts as a way of transmitting nerve impulses throughout the body. A schwann cell is a specific type of cell that creates the myelin sheath of the nerves. As a schwann cell develops, the cell will wrap itself around a nerve so that the nerve will eventually be layered with the cell. When a schwannoma tumor develops, it will form around the tissue of the myelin sheath.
- An initial symptom of a spinal cord tumor will be the sensation of progressive back pain. Back pain can develop even if a patient hasn't exerted himself, and it may also become worse when lying down. If a tumor becomes large, the spinal nerves can become compressed. As a result, a patient can experience tingling sensations, numbness, weakness and pain that radiates through the lower limbs. If a patient begins to retain fluid, have bladder or bowel loss, and a decreased sensation in the lower limbs, he should seek medical attention.
- MRI machineImage by Flickr.com, courtesy of liz west
A physician will conduct a physical exam testing a patient's reflexes. He will be tested on muscle strength, whether he can feel sensations upon his skin, and he may also be asked to walk to check for any changes in how he moves. A biopsy may also be performed to examine a section of the tumor under a microscope. Other exams can include a CT scan, X-ray and MRI.
- Many tumors compressing the spinal cord can be removed with surgery. A surgeon will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Healthy tissue around the tumor will also be removed in the hopes of preventing the spread of any cancer if the tumor was cancerous. If the tumor proves to be large, radiation and chemotherapy may used in conjunction with surgery.
- Inside a radiation machineImage by Flickr.com, courtesy of midiman
According to the Mayo Clinic, radiation "uses beams of high-energy X-rays" which specifically targets and kills cancer cells. Radiation can kill cancer cells more quickly, before the cells are capable of diving and growing. Radiation therapy can also be used to shrink tumors prior to surgery in order to completely remove a tumor. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve symptoms of the tumor when the spinal cord is being compressed by the tumor.
- Patient receiving chemotherapyImage by Flickr.com, courtesy of Jenny Mealing
Chemotherapy is somewhat like radiation in its function of killing cancer cells. However, chemotherapy can be administered with an IV or through medications. Chemotherapy can be used as a primary form of treatment, or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells within the body. Like radiation, chemotherapy may be used to shrink tumors prior to surgery or to help relieve symptoms. Chemotherapy can also be used to slow down the growth of a tumor if it proves to be cancerous.