Tumors and Nerve Damage

Last Updated: 04/14/14

Different nerves in the body are affected depending on where each tumor grows. It is not size but growth rate that determines how long it takes for a tumor to stop function in a nerve. Therefore there is no set size of tumor that will guarantee complete damage.

Each nerve in the body can be associated with multiple functions, therefore, damage can affect; senses, muscles and even organs.

Nerves in the brain, cranial nerves, are particularly sensitive and when damaged have much less chance to heal than nerves in any other area of the body, even after minimal damage. So when cranial nerves loose circulation, due to the development of a tumor either to close or on nerves in the brain, the nerve rarely heals and may not recover 100% in the cases when they do heal. Everywhere else in the body the nerves can take up to six months to completely heal.

VS (Vestibular Schwannomas), tumors that grow on the Vestibular Nerve, hearing loss balance issues and facial nerve damage are the most common nerve damage results for individuals with NF2.

1. Cranial Nerves - Brain

Nerves in the brain have a much less chance to heal correctly than nerves in any other area of the body, even after minimal damage. There are 24 Cranial Nerves, 12 pair of Cranial Nerves in the Central Nerve System, a left and a right nerve for each. Each Cranial Nerve controls specific muscles or senses, some control both.

  • i. Cranial Nerve 5: Trigeminal Nerve

  • Damage to any part of this nerve should not result in facial movement issues. Facial movement is the result of CN7, the Facial Nerve.

  • ii. Cranial Nerve 7: Facial Nerve

    • Nerve Functions
    • The Facial Nerve primarily controls; eyelid movement, lip movement for eating and talking, as well as facial expression.

    • Reasons for Damage
    • The facial nerve can easily be broken or otherwise weakened, during treatment management of Vestibular Schwannoma. There are different treatment techniques surgery, radiation and chemotherapy trials for different approaches to manage tumors. Options are often based on; exact tumor location, tumor size, a tumors shape and rate of growth, in addition to; an individual's age, height, weight and general health. Some of the different treatment options can ultimately lead to damage to the facial nerve.

  • iii. Cranial Nerve 8: Vestibulocochlear Nerve

    • Nerve Functions: Hearing and Balance Issues (Cochlear Nerve and Vestibular Nerve)

    • Reasons for Damage
    • While hearing loss and hearing issues are not the only issue people with NF2 face, it is the one issue 90 percent of people with NF2 develop, with all the other possible issues varying for a variety of reasons. Tumors typically grow on the Vestibular Nerve but growth on either the Vestibular Nerve or the Cochlear Nerve typically results in damage to both and therefore hearing and balance are lost at the same time.

2. Brain Matter

While Schwannoma tumors damage to Cranial Nerves, both Schwannoma and Meningioma tumors cause pressure on brain matter. This pressure can affect ability for the brain to function properly in that region.

  • i. Cerebrospinal-Fluid Flow Issues

  • Tumor growth can result in issues with the necessary flow of Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) from the brain into the spine. There are two forms of Cerebrospinal-Fluid flow issues that might develop; Intracranial Pressure (Obstructive Hydrocephalus) or CSF Leaks (Intracranial Hypotension).

  • ii. Treatment Damage - Microsurgery and Radiation

  • The two methods of management of tumors are Microsurgery to remove tumor mass, or a Radiation form which might either shrink a tumor o prevent further growth. However neither form is without it's own risks.

    See Microsurgery and Radiation Treatments to learn more.

3. The Spine - PNS (Peripheral Nerve System)

Spinal Cord Compression results in Spine Damage and can include Loss of Mobility. Tumors in the spine can damage the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) and depending on how extensive the damage is to the nerves it can result in Spinal Cord Compression. Spinal Cord Compression is damage to nerves in the spine that will result in issues without the Somatic Systems and Autonomic Systems. The Somatic Nervous System is part of the peripheral nervous system, which controls muscles and movement in different parts of the body. The Autonomic Nervous System affects organs.

Problems an individual would develop would be based on the location of the tumor in the spinal cord.

Read more about the Spial Cord Damage and the Peripheral Nervous System

  • i. Balance Issues

  • People with NF2 tend to develop balance issues in the following cases:

    • Growth of Vestibular Schwannomas or Damage due to Vestibular Schwannomas
    • Read more about Balance Issues

    • Spinal Tumors
    • Peripheral Neuropathy / Nerve Degeneration

  • ii. Peripheral Nerve Damage

  • If your body is always cold or doctors have a hard time finding veins for IV injections you may have a circulation problem. Circulation issues are not uncommon amongst people with NF2, it is one of the signs of Peripheral Nerve Damage.

    Pain and other issues through the body, lower than the head can be the result of tumors in unexpected locations. These issues could be from tumors on nerves or spine surgical damage. Damage from tumors could be the result of either:

    • Peripheral Neuropathy - Tumors on or near Peripheral Nerves
    • Radiculopathy - Peripheral Nerve Damage due to Spinal Cord Damage

    Learn more about Peripheral Nerve Damage.

4. Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal Cord Compression results in Spine Damage and can include Loss of Mobility. Tumors in the spine can damage the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) and depending on how extensive the damage is to the nerves it can result in Spinal Cord Compression. Spinal Cord Compression is damage to nerves in the spine that will result in issues without the Somatic Systems and Autonomic Systems. The Somatic Nervous System is part of the peripheral nervous system, which controls muscles and movement in different parts of the body. The Autonomic Nervous System affects organs.

Problems an individual would develop would be based on the location of the tumor in the spinal cord.

5. Peripheral Nerve Damage

Pain and other issues through the body, lower than the head can be the result of tumors in unexpected locations. These issues could be from tumors on nerves or spine surgical damage. Damage from tumors could be the result of either:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy - Tumors on or near Peripheral Nerves
  • Radiculopathy - Peripheral Nerve Damage due to Spinal Cord Damage


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