What is a meningioma?
A meningioma is a tumor (often benign, or noncancerous) that forms in the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. Though not technically part of the brain, meningiomas are categorized as brain tumors because of their tendency to compress the brain, nerves and vessels, resulting in serious neurological complications. It is rare for a meningioma to form on the spinal cord.
Meningiomas grow very slowly over time, often over the course of years without causing any symptoms. They appear more in women and are typically found in older patients, but can occur at any age.
What causes it?
What causes a meningioma is unknown, but there may be a genetic predisposition to developing one or to having an issue with hormones in the body, including androgen, progesterone and estrogen (which may be why it occurs more frequently in women than men).
Exposure to radiation—following treatment near the head for another condition—may also be a risk factor.
Research is still being done to determine these and other potential causes.
What are the symptoms of meningioma?
Symptoms may appear gradually and typically depend on where the meningioma develops. They can include:
- Headaches that get worse over time
- Issues with vision, such as blurriness or seeing double
- Loss of the sense of smell
- Memory loss
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or hearing loss
- Weakness in the limbs
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosing a meningioma is difficult because of the way the symptoms subtly and gradually appear. As a result, they can be mistaken as symptoms for a host of other conditions or dismissed as side effects of aging.
If a meningioma is suspected, patients may be referred to a neurologist who will conduct a thorough exam and may perform imaging tests, including:
- A computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-rays to create cross-sectional images of the brain
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create cross-section images of the structures within the brain
How is a meningioma treated?
Treatment for a meningioma is dependent on:
- Size and location
- How fast or aggressively it’s growing
- Age and overall health
- Treatment goals
In some cases, such as an accidental discovery, a wait-and-see approach may be best, especially if the meningioma isn’t causing any symptoms. If a physician opts to take this approach, patients will have periodic scanning done to see if the tumor grows or spreads.
If treatment is required, options can include:
- Surgery to fully or partially remove the tumor, depending on where it forms
- Radiation therapy if the tumor could only partially be removed or surgery isn’t an option
- Chemotherapy if the tumor cannot be treated surgically or with radiation therapy (though using chemotherapy for this condition is rare)
For more information about meningioma or to schedule an appointment with a specialist, contact us today.