What Is The Long-term Outlook For Nerve Sheath Tumor?

Nerve sheath tumors develop in the sheath layer, which covers the nerves. They are often benign, though, in other instances of nerve sheath tumors, they can be malignant. The progression of benign nerve sheath tumors to malignancy is usually rare, but it can happen. Considering a benign nerve sheath tumor, the long-term outlook of the condition is usually better compared to that of a malignant nerve sheath tumor. The long-term outlook is dependent on the rate of growth of the tumor, size, recurrence, response to treatment, metastasis of the tumor, and the implications it has on the human nervous system. It is also important to look at any other conditions linked to the development of a nerve sheath tumor for example, neurofibromatosis and other cancers such as multiple myeloma.

What Is The Long-term Outlook For Nerve Sheath Tumor?

Malignant nerve sheath tumors have a poor long-term outlook for various reasons. They are classified as high-grade tumors, meaning they develop at an abnormally fast rate, and on top of that, they are cancerous. Needless say, they can metastasize into neighboring regions depending on their location. The common malignant nerve sheath tumor is the peripheral malignant nerve sheath tumor, which is also known as neurofibrosarcoma. Since they originate in the nerves, they fall under a larger group of cancers referred to as soft tissue sarcomas. They commonly occur in the arms, legs, lower back, head, and neck. Neurofibrosarcomas can metastasize along various nerves, however, it is unlikely they will spread to organs, but they can spread to the lungs. Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) also have a poor long-term outlook because they have a high probability of recurrence even after aggressive treatment. MPNSTs are usually treated using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these medical interventions. They can respond well to treatment, but in other instances, the tumors will not respond as expected. In such cases, the survival rate of a patient is usually very low and only has weeks to live.

The Long-Term Outlook Of Schwannomas

Schwannomas are often nonmalignant which forms around the tissue that covers and insulates nerves. They are associated with the abnormal growth of Schwann cells which build up the sheath layer. Schwannomas regularly occur along the nerves of the neck and head. Although they hardly metastasize, they can grow into large masses and press against the affected nerves leading to complications such as loss of balance. Some of the common symptoms of schwannomas include; painful/painless swelling on the face, hearing loss, loss of balance and coordination and weakness or paralysis on the face. Most schwannomas may not need treatment unless they are very large and causing problems for the patient. Once a schwannoma is completely removed, it does not come back. So, generally speaking, schwannomas are a less-risky type of nerve sheath tumors with a pretty good long-term outlook.

Long-Term Outlook Of Neurofibromas

Another common type of nonmalignant nerve sheath tumors is neurofibromas. They also develop around the sheath layer which surrounds the nerves. Just like schwannomas, neurofibromas grow at a slow rate and will hardly cause any life-threatening symptoms unless they are pressing against the affected nerve. Most cases of neurofibromas are associated with a genetic disorder which involves the neurofibromatosis type 1 and type 2 genes. The long-term outlook of neurofibromas is similar to that of schwannomas. If they are causing problems for a patient, they can be successfully removed without causing damage to the linked nerve.


The long-term outlook of nerve sheath tumor will depend on the type, the growth rate, and the location, response to treatment, the probability of recurrence and the spread. For schwannomas and neurofibromas, they have a promising long-term outlook because they are benign, have a slow growth rate, they respond well to treatment; they do not metastasize, and will not recur. On the other hand, malignant nerve sheath tumors have a poor long-term outlook. This is because, they are usually cancerous, progress at an abnormally fast rate, have a high tendency of recurrence and metastasizing, they can be deeply rooted within the spinal cord and even after aggressive treatment, they can come back. In cases where nerve sheath tumors are associated with conditions such as neurofibromatosis or other cancers, the long-term outlook for the tumor becomes poorer.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 26, 2018

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