Neurofibroma is a type of nerve tumor that grows soft bumps in the body. It can develop an overgrowth of nerve tissue along with blood vessels and other kinds of cells and fibers. Neurofibroma can grow on nerves in the skin, under the skin or deeper in the body, including in the abdomen, chest and spine. This common type of benign nerve tumor tends to develop more centrally within the nerve.
If you have neurofibroma, the symptoms might vary depending on the type, size and where the tumor is located. While, some people who may have neurofibroma may never show any symptoms. Whereas, neurofibroma to some people can also cause serious medical issues such as paralysis or blindness.
Here is what neurofibroma symptoms might look like :
- Localized Neurofibromas – These are small lumps that appear all over the body of a person. Such tumors are most often found in people who fall under the age group of 20 to 40 years.
- Diffuse Neurofibromas – Diffuse neurofibromas are called cutaneous neurofibromas. This tumor generally appears on people’s hand and neck, causing a thick skin that may feel numb when touched.
- Plexiform Neurofibromas – Plexiform neurofibroma grows in groups of nerves. Plexiform neurofibromas usually act on children who have neurofibromatosis. Such tumors might grow over time under or over the skin of children. The pressure on their spinal cord and peripheral nerves might also result in symptoms like paralysis, weakness and numbness.
There could be several factors or causes that may increase the risks and complications of neurofibroma, following are some of the known causes of neurofibroma.
Neurofibroma is often passed on by family members over the years which makes inheritance a factor. However, almost half of the people who are lately diagnosed have no family history of the disorder condition.
Other mutations (changes) that may lead to neurofibromatosis involve :
- Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) gene on chromosome 17 makes a protein called neurofibromin that controls your cell’s growth. The changes in this gene causes neurofibromin loss and uncontrolled growth of the cell.
- Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) is the gene on chromosome 22 that makes a protein called merlin which suppresses tumors. The changes to this gene cause a loss of merlin and growth of the cell gets uncontrolled.
- Schwannomatosis refers to the mutation of the two known genes linked to schwannomatosis, SMARCB1 and LZTR1. Both of them suppress tumors that are associated with this type of neurofibromatosis.
It requires no known cause for a neurofibroma to arise in people. It is most likely to appear in people who tend to have a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis. Such tumors are most often found in people who fall under the age group of 20 to 40 years.
Your healthcare advisor will diagnose a neurofibroma on the basis of a physical examination with you about your medical history. He might also take a discussion basis on the results of an imaging test such as a CT or MRI scaṇ. This helps in identifying where the tumor is located and what all tissues are affected.
You might also have to undergo a PET scan to get an indicator for whether it is benign or a biopsy to diagnose the mass as being a neurofibroma.
Neurofibroma treatment generally involves monitoring or surgery intervention. Your doctor may ask you to undergo a surgical intervention wherein the removal of a neurofibroma that is causing pain or weakness, that tends to grow fast and is suspected to develop into cancer.
- Monitoring – Your healthcare advisor may ask you to undergo an observation stage wherein they monitor whether a tumor is at a place that makes removal difficult or if it’s small enough to not cause any problem. Such an observation involves regular checkups and investigations to closely monitor the growth of tumors.
- Surgery – The type of surgery which needs to be performed depends on the size, where precisely the tumor is located, its involvement with the underlying nerve, and whether it is intervened with more than one nerve, neurofibroma surgery can get complicated. The main aim of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible without causing any further damage to the nerve. Post surgery, you may also need physical rehabilitation. Furthermore, to prevent yourself from stiffness and restore your function and feeling, there are therapists available for both physical and occupational needs that can guide you through specific exercises that help you keep your joints and muscles active.