What are nerve tumours?

Nerve Tumours, also known as Nerve Sheath Tumours, are growths on the peripheral nerves in the body. The peripheral nerve link the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body, such as the upper and lower limbs i.e. arms and legs.

There are several types of tumours that may occur in the peripheral nerves and the majority of these are benign and non-cancerous. 

They can however lead to potential problems within the peripheral nerves such as pain, pins and needles and numbness and damage which can effect muscle control. On rare occasions it can cause muscle weakness and they can grow in to  a significant size. Patients notice it starts as a small swelling the size of a pea but can grow as big as a golf ball.

Things to look out for is a slowly increasing in size swelling and the upper and lower limbs which predominantly is detected superficially but can be on occasion deep and therefore for difficult to feel. You may have associated symptoms particularly when you touch the lump such as pain and electric shock sensations going down from the lump.


The best investigation to obtain to identify whether this is a Nerve sheath swelling/Tumour is an ultrasound scan. If there are features on the ultrasound scan to suggest a Nerve sheath tumour then on occasion we will perform an MRI scan to ensure that it is a benign entity and on occasion identify the size and the location.

Types of nerve sheath tumours


This is the commonest type of peripheral nerve sheath tumours in adults. It can occur in any  part of the body and is made up of cells which line the peripheral nerves called Schwann cells. There are slow growing in nature and they come from a bundle of nerves fibres. It very rarely causes long term problems and can be excised un local/general anaesthetic as a day case procedure.


This the is a common type of  peripheral nerve sheath tumours also and is normally in the centre of the nerves. Again it may come from several nerve bundles and tends to cause mild symptoms. They are communally associated in patients who have another medical condition called neurofibromatosis (NF) and usually of the type one sub type. Again these can be investigated with an MRI and Ultrasound scan.


This is a rare type of peripheral nerve sheath tumours and it occurs for the type of cells for the   nerve sheath called perinural cells. It can cause problems with compression and symptoms such as pains and tingling with a weakness of the affected area. 

Malignant nerve sheath tumours

Very rarely on occasions malignant nerve sheath tumours are detected predominantly with patients with other nerve conditions called neurofibromatosis. Nerve sheath Tumours require intense investigation and will require biopsy to determine the true histopathology and wider sarcoma MDT discussion for the best treatment.

Future risk

These type of benign nerve sheath swellings do not usually cause long-term problems, if the symptoms are effecting you significantly they can be excised easily.

For further information please contact the clinic team.