The schwannoma is the tumor arising from covering of nerve endings – Schwann cells. Healthy Schwann cells are essential for the transmission of nerve impulses as they isolate nerve endings from the surrounding tissues. Sometimes, for unknown reasons, a number of Schwann cells come out of control, grow excessively and form a tumor.
Typically schwannomas are benign and grow really slowly, up to few millimeters per year. The condition requires medical attention due to the possibility of compression of the nearby structures – vestibular or facial nerve, brain tissue. The treatment of schwannoma should remove the neoplasm and preserve the sensitive surrounding nervous tissue the same time.
How can I suspect having schwannoma?
Clinical signs of the vestibular schwannoma mainly depend on its size. Small tumors are asymptomatic and may not reveal themselves for months or years. As the tumor grows, the following symptoms arise:
- Tinnitus or unusual causeless sounds on the affected side.
- Hearing loss up to complete deafness on one ear.
- Discomfort or “fullness” in the ear.
- Problems with balance and coordination of movements.
- Dizziness and unsteady gait.
- Disturbances of the face sensitivity (in affection of the facial nerve).
- Mental confusion, problems with thinking and concentration.
Nevertheless, these symptoms may be present in a number of other conditions. The diagnosis should be confirmed by the ultrasound examination, MRI or CT scan, and biopsy.
When a patient develops a tumor against the background of neurofibromatosis 2 (the genetic disorder), schwannoma signs may be somewhat masked by the manifestations of the main disease.
What treatment options do I have?
Treatment options are defined by the severity of clinical manifestations, size and localization of schwannoma, and biopsy results (in case the tumor is malignant, though it happens rarely, the surgery is planned without delay).
The first medical tactics, which is suitable for patients with small and asymptomatic schwannomas, is watchful waiting. Regular imaging with the help of MRI or CT scan will give your doctor all the necessary information about the tumor state. If necessary, he will recommend a more active treatment.
Radiation therapy includes external irradiation of the tumor with high-energy beams. This prevents further growth of the schwannoma and can even make the tumor disappear. Radiotherapy can also follow the surgery, in order to prevent the disease relapse.
Neurosurgical treatments involve conventional interventions and the stereotactic radiosurgery. In the first case, the neoplasm is removed via translabyrinthine or middle fossa approach (both require craniotomy), or directly through the external auditory canal. In the second case, the precise beam of irradiation is directed at the schwannoma. This does not require skin incision or craniotomy and preserves maximally the nerve function.
And what if I want to undergo treatment abroad?
Patients are not obliged to undergo treatment of schwannoma strictly in the country of their origin. According to the independent world’s statistic data, the most efficient curative treatment of schwannomas with the best functional results is performed in the countries with developed medical systems – in Germany, Austria, and Spain.
Planning treatment abroad has a number of peculiarities and may be complicated for an inexperienced person. A patient should receive personal invitation for treatment from the hospital, issue visa, take care about plane and accommodation, translate medical reports, buy medical insurance, control the expenses, etc.
To make the process of treatment abroad more comfortable and safe, you may use services of Booking Health. Booking Health is a certified medical tourism provider that takes care about all aspects of travelling abroad for the health issues. Specialists of Booking Health will assist you in hospital selection, issuing visa and receiving invitation from the hospital, booking the urgent appointment, arranging the journey, translation of documents and control of financial issues. Should you leave the treatment request at the official Booking Health website, and the same day you will receive a call from a medical advisor, who will guide your further steps.