Meningioma is a tumor that occurs in the meninges. The meninges are the surrounding membranes of the brain and the spinal cord. Generally, most of the meningioma tumors are benign (noncancerous). However, there are rare cases of malignant (cancerous) meningioma, and one other type that is classified as atypical because it is something in between i.e. it is not benign neither malignant. Meningioma usually occurs in older women, but it can affect also men no matter the age. There is no need for immediate treatment, especially if no significant symptoms are noticeable in which case the meningioma will be monitored over time.
Meningioma symptoms appear gradually and are usually subtle in the beginning. The symptoms that can appear depend on what position in the brain, or rarely in the spine, the tumor is situated. They can be:
- Headaches that get worse as time passes
- Weakness in the arms and legs
- Vision changes (blurriness or seeing double)
- Bad hearing
- Loss of the smell sense
- Loss of memory
Although most of the symptoms develop gradually, a person should require immediate medical help if experiences: abrupt start of seizures or unexpected vision or memory changes.
Also, visit the doctor if any symptom is constant, especially if the person experiences headaches that tend to get worse with time.
It isn’t known what causes the meningioma to form, but doctors have the knowledge that something alters the cells in the membranes which protect the brain and spinal cord to multiply without control what results in meningioma tumors. But what factors cause this to happen, whether is it because inherited genes, environmental exposure, hormones or combination of these, it is yet unfamiliar.
The risk of developing meningioma can be higher due to:
- Female hormones
- Radiation treatments to the head
- Inherited nervous system disorder (neurofibromatosis type 2)
The meningioma tumor as well as the treatment of meningioma can result in lasting complications, such as: difficulties to concentrate, loss of memory, seizures and changes in personality. Some complications can be treated by the doctors, and usually it is also recommendable to see a specialist who can help a person suffering from meningiomas to cope with the situation.
The treatment of meningioma will depend on few factors such as: the size and the position of the meningioma, as well as how aggressive the tumor is. The patient’s overall health and preference will also be taken into consideration. The treatment for meningioma can be:
- Wait-and-see approach-Treatments may start after some time of periodical brain scans to check if the meningioma is growing in cases when the meningioma is small, grows slowly and isn’t causing any symptoms, so an immediate treatment isn’t necessary at the very beginning.
- Surgery-when the meningioma is growing and causes symptoms a surgery may be required; the surgery tends to remove the meningioma completely, but sometimes the meningioma is positioned near delicate structures in the brain or spinal cord, so it is not always feasible to remove the tumor totally, so surgeons remove as much as possible and further treatment may be needed.
- Radiation therapy-further therapy after a surgery if the tumor wasn’t entirely removed
- Radiosurgery-radiation treatment with several powerful radiation beams aiming at precise point
- Fractionated radiation-a possible treatment option with delivery of small radiation fraction over time for large tumors near area that cannot tolerate the high intensity of the radiosurgery
- Medications-for cases that cannot be solved with surgery or cases of reoccurring meningiomas