Meningiomas are tumors that develop in the cells of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas (also called meningeal tumors) account for approximately 15 percent of all intracranial tumors. Most of these tumors are benign (non-cancerous and slow-growing). Meningiomas are typically removed with surgery. Some meningiomas may not need immediate treatment and may remain undetected for years. Most meningiomas are diagnosed in women between 30 and 50 years old.
Common meningioma symptoms
Meningioma symptoms vary depending on their size and location within the central nervous system. They may include:
- Headache when waking up in the morning or during the night
- Headaches that worsen with time
- Dull, persistent headache
- Changes in vision, such as double vision or blurriness
- Hearing loss
- Memory loss
- Loss of smell
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Physical weakness or paralysis
- Epilepsy (seizures)
- New onset of neurological deficits (speech disorders, clumsiness)
NOTE: These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. It is important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Advanced treatments for meningioma
Common treatments for meningioma include:
Surgery: The most common treatment for symptomatic meningiomas involves removal of the tumors. A surgeon typically performs a craniotomy to open the skull and remove the tumor. A pathologist may examine a biopsy of the tissue to determine the tumor’s grade. If the tumor cannot be completely removed because of its location or other factors, the remainder of the tumor may be treated with radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy: Some tumors may be considered inoperable because they are located too close to areas of the brain that control vital functions. Stereotactic radiosurgery treatments may be used to attack malignant tumor cells with a technique designed to reduce exposure to normal healthy cells. The benefits of radiation may not be immediate but instead may develop over time. When radiation treatments are successful, the tumor will stop growing, shrink or, in some cases, disappear.
Observation: Also called active surveillance or watchful monitoring, observation is considered for meningiomas that cause no symptoms. With this technique, the neurosurgeon continues to evaluate the tumor, often with the aid of periodic imaging and other tests. If the tumor grows or symptoms develop or worsen, surgery or radiation therapy may be recommended.