Meningioma is a tumor that occurs inside the skull on the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Specifically, the tumor forms on three layers of membranes called the meninges. These tumors usually grow slowly. About 90% are benign (non-cancerous). You can find more information below.

What is a meningioma?

A meningioma is a tumor that originates in the meninges, which are the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Although not technically a brain tumor, it is included in this category because it is adjacent to the brain and can compress nerves and vessels. Meningioma is the most common type of tumor in the head.

Most such tumors grow very slowly, often growing over years without causing symptoms. But in some cases, its effects on adjacent brain tissue, nerves, or vessels can cause severe disability.

Such tumors are most common in women and are often found in older age, although a meningioma can occur at any age.

Because most meningiomas grow slowly, often with no obvious symptoms, they do not always require immediate treatment and may only need to be monitored over time.

Causes of meningioma

It is not clear what causes this type of tome. Doctors know that something changes certain cells in your meninges to cause a meningioma tumor to grow out of control.

Whether this is due to the genes you inherit, hormones (which may be related to occurring more frequently in women), the rare instance of prior exposure to radiation or other factors is largely unknown. There is also no solid evidence to support the claim that such tumors occur in association with mobile phone use.

Who is at risk?

Risk factors for these types of tumors include:

  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy that exposes the head to radiation can increase the risk of meningioma.
  • Female hormones: Meningiomas are more common in women, leading doctors to believe that female hormones may play a role. Some studies also suggest a link between the risk of these tumors in breast cancer and the role of hormones.
  • Inherited nervous system disorder: The rare disorder neurofibromatosis increases the risk of meningioma and other brain tumors.
  • Obesity: A high body mass index is an established risk factor for many types of cancer, and several large studies have observed a higher probability of tumors among obese people. However, the relationship between obesity and meningiomas is not clear.
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Meningioma symptoms

Symptoms of these types of tumors typically begin gradually and may be difficult to detect at first. Depending on where the tumor is located in the brain or rarely in the spine, symptoms may include:

  • vision changes, such as double or blurred vision
  • headache that worsens over time
  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ears
  • Loss of memory
  • loss of smell
  • seizures
  • Weakness in your arms or legs

When should you see a doctor?

Most of the symptoms triggered by these tumors develop slowly, but sometimes a meningiomas require emergency care. You should seek emergency help if:

  • sudden seizures
  • Sudden changes in your vision or memory

You should see your doctor if you have persistent symptoms that concern you, such as headaches that get worse over time .

In many cases, such tumors do not cause obvious symptoms, so they are only discovered as a result of imaging scans performed for reasons unrelated to the tumor, such as a head injury, stroke, or headache.

Diagnosis of meningioma

These types of tumors can be difficult to diagnose because the tumor usually grows slowly. Symptoms can be different for each person and can be confused with other health conditions or be considered normal signs of aging.

If your primary doctor suspects a meningioma, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in neurological conditions (neurologist).

To make a diagnosis, a neurologist will perform a thorough neurological examination followed by imaging testing such as:

  • Computed tomography scan: CT scans take X-rays that create cross-sectional images of the full picture of your brain. Sometimes an iodine-based paint is used to better remove the picture.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: With magnetic resonance imaging , magnetic fields and radio waves are used to create cross-sectional images of structures in your brain. MRI scans provide a more detailed picture of the brain and meningiomas.
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In some cases, examination of a tumor sample (biopsy) may be required to rule out other tumor types and confirm the diagnosis of meningioma.

Meningioma treatment

The treatment you receive depends on many factors, including:

  • Tumor size and location
  • The rate of growth or aggressiveness of the tumor
  • Age and general health
  • Treatment goals

wait and see approach

Not everyone with this type of tumor requires immediate treatment. A small, slow-growing meningioma that does not cause symptoms may not require treatment.

If treatment is not needed in the plan, you will have periodic brain scans to evaluate your tumor and look for signs that it is growing.

If your doctor determines that your tumor is growing and needs to be treated, you have several treatment options.

Surgical treatment

If your meningioma is causing symptoms or showing signs that it is growing, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Surgeons work to completely remove the tumor. However, because such a tumor can occur near many sensitive structures in the brain or spinal cord, it is not always possible to remove the entire tumor. In these cases, surgeons try to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

The type of treatment you need after surgery depends on several factors.

  • If no visible tumor remains, further treatment may not be necessary. However, you will have periodic follow-up scans.
  • If the tumor is benign and only a small piece is left, your doctor may only recommend periodic follow-up scans. In some cases, tumors that remain small can be treated with a radiation therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery.
  • If the tumor is atypical or malignant, you will likely need radiation.

Surgical treatment may pose risks such as infection and bleeding. The specific risks of your surgery will depend on where your meningioma is located. For example, surgery to remove a tumor that has formed around the optic nerve can lead to vision loss. You can ask your surgeon about the specific risks of your surgery.

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radiation therapy

If the tumor cannot be completely removed surgically, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy after surgery.

The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy any remaining meningioma cells and reduce the likelihood of tumor recurrence. Radiation therapy uses a large machine to target high-powered energy beams at tumor cells.

Advances in radiation therapy increase the dose of radiation to the tumor while reducing the dose of radiation to healthy tissue. Radiation therapy options for meningiomas include:

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery is radiation therapy that aims several powerful beams of radiation at a precise point.
  • Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy delivers small fractions of radiation over time, such as one treatment per day for 30 days.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy uses computer software to change the intensity of radiation directed at the tumor site.
  • Proton beam radiation uses radioactive protons to target the tumor, reducing damage to surrounding tissue.

Medication

Drug therapy (chemotherapy) is rarely used to treat such tumors, but may be used in cases that do not respond to surgery and radiation.

There is no widely accepted chemotherapy approach for the treatment of such tumors, but researchers are currently investigating molecularly targeted approaches.

Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine treatments cannot cure meningiomas, but some may help relieve the side effects of treatment or help you cope with the stress of a tumor.

Alternative medicine treatments that may be helpful include:

  • acupuncture
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • music therapy
  • relaxation exercises

You can discuss the above options with your doctor.

Complications of meningioma

A meningioma and its treatment, often surgery and radiation therapy, can cause long-term complications, including:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of memory
  • personality changes
  • seizures

Your doctor can treat some complications and refer you to different specialists to help you deal with other complications.

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