This article will help you read and understand your pathology report for schwannoma.
by Bibianna Purgina, MD FRCPC, updated on December 6, 2018
The function and anatomy of nerves
Nerves are like long wires made up of groups of cells called neurons. Nerves transmit information (such as temperature, pressure, and pain) between your brain and your body. Nerves are found throughout your body. Some nerves are very small (like those just under the surface of the skin) while other are very large (like those that go to muscles).
Nerves are made up of different kinds of cells. Schwann cells are a type of cell that cover the outside of the nerve.
What is a schwannoma?
Schwannomas are a common non-cancerous type of tumour. They can occur at any age and in any location in the body. Sometimes these tumours can be associated with the genetic syndrome neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). Patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 can develop multiple schwannomas. Schwannomas that develop inside the ears are called acoustic neuromas. Other names for this tumour include neurilemoma and neurinoma.
How do pathologists make this diagnosis?
Under the microscope, schwannomas are made of spindle cells that look very similar to the Schwann cells that make up a normal nerve. When pathologists perform a test called immunohistochemistry, the tumours stain strongly for a protein called S100.
These tumours are usually surrounded by a capsule and are easy to remove by your surgeon. Because they are attached to a nerve, these tumours can cause symptoms such as pain or tingling.
There are several types of schwannoma including:
A pathologist may make a diagnosis of schwannoma after a small sample of the tumour is removed in a procedure called a biopsy. The diagnosis can also be made if the tumour is removed completely without a biopsy.