Spinal Neurofibroma

Overview

Your nerves are wrapped in an insulating sheath made of protein and fatty substances (myelin). Noncancerous (benign) tumors that grow inside this sheath are called nuerofibromas. They can grow anywhere within the nervous system, but they’re commonly found in the spine. While it’s possible to have just one spinal neurofibroma, the tumors are often a result of neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes abnormal growths within your nerve tissue.

Symptoms

Your nerves are wrapped in an insulating sheath made of protein and fatty substances (myelin). Noncancerous (benign) tumors that grow inside this sheath are called nuerofibromas. They can grow anywhere within the nervous system, but they’re commonly found in the spine. While it’s possible to have just one spinal neurofibroma, the tumors are often a result of neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes abnormal growths within your nerve tissue.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a spinal neurofibroma, your doctor may order a CT, MRI or X-ray scan to examine your brain and spinal cord. If a tumor is found, he or she will evaluate its location and size, and carefully map the involvement of your spinal nerves to determine the best course of action.

Treatment Options

Surgery is the most common treatment for spinal neurofibromas that are causing symptoms. The tumor will be surgically removed by taking out a portion of the vertebral bone (laminectomy). Afterward, your doctor will work to stabilize your remaining vertebrae and biopsy the tumor to determine whether it’s cancerous. Your doctor may also perform a nerve graft – a procedure in which the damaged nerve is replaced with a section of healthy nerve taken from another location in your body. 

In some cases, tumors can be treated using stereotactic radiosurgery, such as CyberKnife®, which delivers a high dose of radiation with pinpoint accuracy. There are no incisions required, and it doesn’t damage surrounding healthy tissue. 

If you’re not a good candidate for surgery, or your tumor can’t be easily or completely removed, you could qualify for drug treatments. Clinical trials are currently underway to evaluate the effectiveness of different classes of drugs.

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