What is a meningioma?
A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges, or protective coverings, of your brain and spinal cord. Your meninges are made up of three layers of tissues that occupy the space between your brain and skull and your spinal cord and spine.
Meningiomas usually are benign, meaning they do not invade nearby tissue and they do not metastasize, or migrate, to other parts of your body.
Many benign meningiomas have an extremely slow rate of growth and do not cause symptoms.
Some meningiomas grow in a way that can put pressure on your brain, your skull, or other structures in your head. If this is the case, your exact symptoms will depend largely on the location of the meningioma. However, some symptoms you may notice can include:
- Vision changes
- Weakness, difficulty walking, and coordination problems
Keep in mind that a meningioma cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone. Only a medical professional can provide you with a definitive diagnosis.
Please seek the help of a medical professional if you are concerned about your health, and dial 9-1-1 if you are experiencing an emergency.
If your meningioma is not causing symptoms, or if your symptoms are mild, tolerable, and not getting noticeably worse, your doctor may recommend simple observation. This involves diagnostic imaging repeated periodically to monitor the size of your meningioma.
If your tumor is causing symptoms, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy (Cyberknife or Gamma Knife) or traditional surgery to remove the tumor.
Chemotherapy is generally only used as a last-resort treatment for meningiomas.
There is no single recipe or “cookbook” approach that works best for everyone with a brain tumor. Every brain tumor is unique, as is each patient. Personalized medicine approaches, such as tumor profiling to look for specific gene mutations, can help determine the best therapies available for you.
Quality of Life Considerations
Brain tumor treatment should be about more than extending life; it should also be focused on optimizing quality of life. Access to a variety of neuro-rehabilitation specialists is important because they can help you maximize your independence and return to a fulfilling life with renewed self-esteem.
At Barrow, we offer a Brain Cancer Survivorship Program to foster relationships between families who have been affected by brain tumors and provide ongoing support.
How common are meningiomas?
It is difficult to determine the rate at which meningiomas occur because so many of them do not produce any symptoms. In fact, between one and two percent of autopsies reveal a meningioma that was not known to the individual during their lifetime.
With the advent of modern medical imaging, the rate at which meningiomas are discovered has tripled, resulting in an estimated occurrence rate of 19 cases per 100,000 individuals, or 0.02 percent.
Who gets meningiomas?
People who have been exposed to excessive amounts of radiation, especially to their scalp, may have an increased risk of developing a meningioma.
They are also more common in people over the age of 50, and in people diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF-2).
How are meningiomas diagnosed?
The presence of a tumor can be ascertained by diagnostic imaging—usually computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Your doctor may suspect a meningioma based on imaging alone, but a biopsy will be required to provide you with a definitive diagnosis.