Key Points about Neurofibroma
- Neurofibroma is a nerve tumor that can occur in any minor or major nerve in the body.
- Most neurofibromas begin as non-cancerous, but they can become cancerous over time.
- Doctors use imaging tests, biopsy and physical exams to diagnose neurofibroma.
- Treatment for neurofibroma may include watchful waiting or surgery.
Neurofibroma is a nerve tumor that causes soft bumps on or under the skin. Neurofibroma can develop on any major or minor nerve throughout the body. Typically, a neurofibroma begins as benign (non-cancerous) but can become malignant (cancerous) over time.
In most cases, the cause of this condition is unknown. Sometimes, the genetic condition neurofibromatosis type 1 can cause neurofibroma.
Neurofibroma risk factors
The following factors may increase your risk for developing neurofibroma:
- Being between the ages of 20 and 40
- Having the genetic condition neurofibromatosis type 1
Most people with neurofibroma don’t experience any symptoms. When they do occur, signs and symptoms may include:
- Bump on or under the skin that can be felt
- Pain or numbness in the area of the affected nerve
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors.
- Biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for signs of neurofibroma.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine the size and location of the neurofibroma.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to determine the size and location of the neurofibroma.
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the cancer and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Ongoing monitoring – if your neurofibroma is not causing any symptoms and is non-cancerous, your doctor may recommend ongoing monitoring. During this time, you will see your doctor for regular appointments and imaging tests.
- Surgery – you may need to undergo surgery to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. Your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.