The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest single nerve in the human body. It runs from the lower back through the legs. A tumour may develop on the sciatic nerve if there is abnormal cell growth or reproduction in the nerve tissue or sheath. Once a tumour develops, it is usually accompanied by symptoms of pain, numbness or immobility. Sciatic nerve tumours should be dealt with immediately to prevent tissue damage, extensive discomfort or death.
Tumours of the sciatic nerve occur when cells in the nerve tissue exhibit abnormal growth and reproduction. Symptoms may include skin discolouration, pain, numbness, tingling, debilitation or, in severe cases, death caused by damage to nearby vital structures. A sciatic nerve tumour is also called a schwannoma, a term used to describe nerve tumours growing in the leg, upper arm or lower back. Schwannomas can be malignant (cancerous) and life-threatening.
Neurofibromatosis is the term used to describe abnormal cell growth in nerve tissue. There are two basic types of neurofibromatosis: NF1 and NF2. NF1 is more common and may cause tumours associated with skin discolouration and bone damage. Symptoms of NF1 are often apparent at birth. NF2 is much less common. It occurs when a tumour or complication of the nerve tissue is bilateral (occurring on both sides of the body).
Tumours on the sciatic nerve may cause a symptom known as sciatica. Sciatica is characterised by pain in the lower back that radiates through the buttocks into the lower leg. Sensations of numbness or tingling in the legs may also be indicative of sciatica. In severe cases, sciatica may result in loss of bladder or bowel control.
Treatment for sciatic nerve tumours usually involves surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or some combination of the three. If surgery is required, a doctor will make an incision in the leg, buttocks or lower back and physically remove as much of the tumour as possible. Radiation therapy sometimes follows to rid the body of any residual traces of the tumour. Chemotherapy is not often used to treat sciatic nerve tumours. While chemotherapy may be able to shrink or contain a tumour, it does not usually cure it.
Because sciatic nerve tumours can be cancerous, it is imperative to obtain medical attention immediately. Tumours grow over time, so discovering a sciatic nerve tumour in its early stages may improve an individual's treatment and prognosis. Speak with a doctor or medical professional immediately if you experience symptoms of acute or chronic pain, immobility, tingling or numbness in the lower back, legs or buttocks.