Why choose Mayo Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff


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Simulation and Reality Meet to Find Ideal Surgical Approach for Florida Patient

For six months, Chad Thompson slept sitting up to ease debilitating headaches caused by a tumor growing on a nerve in his head. Now, after a successful surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus in March, the 40-year-old Jacksonville resident is having conversations with friends and co-workers that he never expected. “People keep asking, ‘When are [...]

  • Experience. Every year, Mayo Clinic doctors treat more than 500 people with benign peripheral nerve tumors.
  • Expertise. Mayo Clinic has earned national recognition for developing special techniques that let surgeons remove a tumor, often without damaging nerves.
  • Team approach. To diagnose and treat people who have benign peripheral nerve tumors, integrated teams of doctors, including neurologists and neurosurgeons, work with doctors trained in inherited conditions (geneticists) and professionals trained to help people regain movement and function.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks No. 1 for neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report.


Peripheral nerve tumors affect nerves by growing within them (intraneural tumors) or by pressing against them (extraneural tumors). Most are benign.

Intraneural tumors

  • Nerve sheath tumors. This type includes schwannomas and neurofibromas, tumors that form within the nerve. Most are round and small. Others may enlarge and assume unusual shapes within your spine or pelvis, such as dumbbell tumors.

    Your Mayo Clinic treatment team is experienced in removing all of these tumors, from the routine to the more challenging type.

  • Schwannoma. The most common benign peripheral nerve tumor in adults, a schwannoma, can occur anywhere. It typically comes from a single bundle (fascicle) within the main nerve and displaces the rest of the nerve.

    When a schwannoma grows larger, more fascicles are affected, making removal more difficult. In general, they grow slowly.

    If you develop a schwannoma in an arm or leg, you may notice a mass. If you have a rare schwannoma near your brain stem (an acoustic neuroma), you may notice trouble with your balance or hearing. Most of the time this type of tumor forms without being associated with a syndrome, but a few acoustic neuromas may be diagnosed as NF2 tumors.

  • Schwannomatosis. Schwannomas most commonly occur as solitary tumors, though occasionally individuals may have several of them in the arms, legs or body, a condition known as schwannomatosis.
  • Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2). If you develop acoustic neuromas on both sides of the brain, a rare event, you may notice progressive hearing loss, poor balance, headaches, facial pain or numbness. Untreated NF2 tumors that continue to grow can affect nearby nerves, including the brainstem, and cause death.
  • Neurofibroma. This common type of benign nerve tumor tends to form more centrally within the nerve. A neurofibroma may arise from several nerve bundles and tends to cause mild symptoms. This tumor most commonly develops in people who have neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1).

    Doctors usually diagnose people who have NF1 by examining discolorations or benign tumors on their skin. Some people who have NF1 may develop other conditions, such as curvature of the spine (scoliosis), another bone deformity or an eye nerve tumor (optic glioma).

  • Perineurioma. This rare benign peripheral nerve tumor can also develop as an extraneural tumor. It occurs most commonly in children and young adults and typically causes gradually progressive weakness and sensory loss involving an arm or leg.

Extraneural tumors

  • Lipomas. Slow-growing fat cells cause these benign, soft lumps that usually appear under the skin on the neck, shoulders, back or arms. A lipoma near a nerve may compress it. Usually, though, they cause no pain or other problems. Your doctor may want to monitor it through regular checkups.
  • Ganglion cysts. Some of these cysts come from an injury, but most have no known cause. They commonly form around joints, such as your wrist, and can cause pain and interfere with everyday activities. Some go away without treatment, but ganglion cysts that compress neighboring nerves should be removed.
Oct. 11, 2014