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About Childhood Schwannoma

  • Schwannoma (also called neurilemoma) is a rare brain tumor that occurs in the nervous system. It is most frequently a benign (non-cancerous) tumor. It commonly impacts nerves located in the head and neck and nerves that flex the upper and lower extremities.

    • Schwannoma is generally non-aggressive and easily treated.
    • It can arise in the nerve sheath, the membrane that covers and provides insulation to the nerve cells.
    • Most cases occur in young adults but can be diagnosed in children.
    • Neurofibromatosis type 2 is a genetic condition that can increase the risk of schwannoma.

    At Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, the specialists in our Childhood Brain Tumor Center offer complete care for children with schwannoma. From thorough diagnosis and advanced treatments to comprehensive follow-up care, we’re here for you and your family every step of the way.

    Symptoms of Childhood Schwannoma

    Patients with tumors that affect nerves close to the surface will likely discover a mass sooner than those with a tumor affecting a more deep-seated nerve. The most common symptoms of schwannoma include:

    • Painless or painful mass that is grows slowly over time
    • Electric-like shock, called Tinel shock, when the affected area is touched

    Neurological problems usually don't occur unless the tumor involves a major motor or sensory nerve, is located adjacent to the spinal cord, or compresses a nerve. Schwannomas situated on the vestibular nerve (hearing nerve) may cause hearing loss and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

    How We Diagnose Childhood Schwannoma

    Doctors typically diagnosis schwannoma by reviewing a child’s medical history, performing a physical examination, and ordering imaging studies and biopsy.

    After all diagnostic tests are done, your child’s doctor will share the results with you and outline the best treatment options.

    How We Treat Childhood Schwannoma

    Surgery is commonly the first treatment used for schwannoma. Surgical removal of the tumor rarely harms nerve function. After surgery, we may use radiation therapy to destroy any remaining tumor cells.

    After treatment, your child and family will continue to receive care and support from our team of cancer specialists. We continue to monitor your child’s health and provide support services through our pediatric survivorship programs, including the Stop & Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic for pediatric survivors of brain or spinal cord tumors.

    Long-term Outcomes for Children with Schwannoma

    The prognosis for children with schwannoma is generally excellent. The cure rate is high, and it very rarely recurs. If a tumor does come back in the same place, it usually means complete surgical removal wasn’t possible.

    Childhood Schwannoma Treatment Team

    Our schwannoma treatment team includes doctors with specialized expertise in treating pediatric brain tumors, such as schwannoma. See a complete list of the specialists in our Childhood Brain Tumor Center.