What is a Neuroma Tumor?

Laura M. Sands

A neuroma tumor, also known as a neoplastic neuroma, is a thickening or a growth on the nerve cells. This type of tumor can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. Sometimes referred to simply as a nerve tumor, a neuroma tumor can occur in any part of the body. These tumors are not malignant and are often only a temporary affliction. Depending on its location, however, a neoplastic neuroma can be life threatening.

Regardless of its location or type, a neuroma tumor is not an automatic indication of cancer.
Regardless of its location or type, a neuroma tumor is not an automatic indication of cancer.

A neuroma tumor is generally first suspected by the symptoms it prompts. Its proper diagnosis, however, involves a medical examination. Depending on its severity, a doctor will decide which course of action to take to remove the nerve tumor.

People with a Morton's neuroma may find it difficult to wear shoes.
People with a Morton's neuroma may find it difficult to wear shoes.

Most often, a neuroma tumor develops as the result of a surgery or recent trauma to the affected area. Although benign, these tumors can be quite painful and can seriously hamper one’s daily activities. One of the most common types is known as Morton’s neuroma, which is also referred to as a foot neuroma.

An acoustic neuroma may contribute to facial paralysis.
An acoustic neuroma may contribute to facial paralysis.

A Morton’s neuroma is usually felt between the last two toes. It may be caused by wearing ill-fitted shoes or by walking long distances. With this particular type of neuroma tumor, a person may find temporary relief by removing uncomfortable shoes and rubbing the foot. With time, however, symptoms will progress to include sharp stabbing pains in the foot, constant numbness or tingling. People with a Morton’s neuroma may also find it difficult to wear shoes, and walking can also be very painful.

X-rays may be helpful in diagnosing neuroma tumors.
X-rays may be helpful in diagnosing neuroma tumors.

Another type of neuroma tumor, known as acoustic neuroma, affects the nerves connecting the ear to the brain. Sometimes referred to as neurofibroma, this tumor is found in the peripheral nervous system and is among the more severe types of nerve tumors. Among its many symptoms, an acoustic neuroma may contribute to a loss of balance, hearing loss, facial paralysis and may even prove life threatening if not properly treated.

An acoustic neuroma may contribute to hearing loss.
An acoustic neuroma may contribute to hearing loss.

Also found to affect the peripheral nervous system is the ganglioneuroma. This is a rare, but potentially dangerous type of tumor depending on its location and whether or not it interrupts the functioning of other body parts. Ganglioneuromas can be found in several parts of the body, including the eyes, the spinal cord and the chest. They are usually benign in nature and are not necessarily accompanied by distinct symptoms. In fact, many go undetected and are often only found during an unrelated examination.

Neuromas are often a bi-product of surgery.
Neuromas are often a bi-product of surgery.

Regardless of its location or type, a neuroma tumor is not an automatic indication of cancer. Such are simply nerve tumors due to the nerve’s thickening or overgrowth. As such, a neuroma tumor can cause pain and discomfort, but only becomes life threatening when it prohibits other key bodily functions.

Ganglioneuromas can be found in the spinal cord.
Ganglioneuromas can be found in the spinal cord.

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