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Neurofibroma

What is a neurofibroma?
Neurofibroma is one of the two most common types of benign tumors that arise from nerves. The other is schwannoma. Neurofibromas, which affect mostly young adults, most often arise as a solitary tumor, but sometimes arise as multiple tumors.Neurofibromas usually affect nerves that are close to the surface of the body such as nerves of the skin or tissue just beneath the skin. However they can occur in any nerve. Unlike schwannomas, which are easily separated from the host nerve with surgery, neurofibromas are most intimately involved with the nerve structure.
What causes neurofibroma?
The cause of neurofibroma is unknown. It sometimes occurs in patients with von Recklinghausen disease (neurofibromatosis).
What are the symptoms of neurofibroma?
The following are the most common symptoms of neurofibroma. Patients may experience symptoms differently depending on the location and size of the tumor or tumors. Symptoms include:

  • painless, slow growing mass
  • sometimes pain
  • electric like shock when affected area is felt (known as “Tinel sign”)
  • usually no neurological problems or loss unless the tumor involves a major motor or sensory nerve or is compressed between the tumor and a rigid structure.

The symptoms of neurofibroma may resemble those of other medical conditions. Always consult a physician for a diagnosis.

How is neurofibroma diagnosed?
In addition to undergoing a complete physical exam and medical history, your child may have one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray – a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. Neurofibromas are not seen well on x-rays, but an x-ray should be obtained to ensure that the adjacent bone is not involved.
  • Ultrasound – an imaging technology that uses high frequency sound waves to view internal organs and structures and produce diagnostic pictures of the human body. Ultrasound is sometimes useful to detect soft tissue masses.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • Biopsy of the tumor – A simple surgical procedure during which a tissue sample from the tumor is taken and then viewed under a microscope.
How is neurofibroma treated?
The exact treatment for neurofibroma may vary from child to child, depending on:

  • your child’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • which nerves are affected and whether the condition is causing symptoms
  • your child’s tolerance for specific procedures, or therapies
  • how your child’s physician expects the disease may progress
  • your opinion or preference

If the neurofibroma is not involved with a major nerve, an operation to remove the nerve containing the tumor is usually the treatment of choice. If a major nerve is involved, doctors may choose to excise the tumor from the nerve, leaving the nerve itself intact, or leave the tumor alone, if it isn’t causing any symptoms.Neurofibroma is usually treated successfully and the condition usually does not recur.

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