Meningioma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Overview

A meningioma refers to a brain tumor that is often found in the meninges of the brain and spinal cord. The meninges serve as the protective linings that cover the brain and spinal cord just inside the skull. Usually, meningioma grows at a very slow rate, and are mostly benign. That means meningiomas are non-cancerous tumors. Meningiomas can occur in many parts of the spinal cord, but they mostly grow on the brain.

In some cases, meningiomas can be cancerous too, causing neurological problems and swelling in the brain. That usually happens when the tumors push on the brainstem and cause compression to the nerves.

In general, meningiomas cause few symptoms over long periods of time. Under this condition, people with meningioma may need no treatment. But if symptoms arise and the tumors start to cause problems, treatment is necessary to keep the situation under control.

Statistically, as many as 90% of meningiomas are benign. Although the disease can happen to both genders, women have a higher risk of getting meningiomas than men. But when it comes to malignant meningiomas, men are more likely to have the condition than women. Approximately, meningiomas account for 25% of all tumors that are related to the spinal canal. And the average age at diagnosis is 45 years.


Causes

Why spinal meningiomas occur is still a problem to solve. According to current researches and studies, experts are still looking for the specific substances that alter the cells in the meninges that make them multiply in an abnormal way. At present, it is still unclear whether meningiomas have something to do with genetic factors, hormones, and other factors. But studies do find that people with inherited disorder neurofibromatosis II (NF 2) are more inclined to develope a meningioma.


Symptoms

Given that meningioma develops at a very slow rate, symptoms and signs may also show gradually. At first, the symptoms can be very subtle. What’s more, according to where the meningioma is and how large the meningioma is, people with the condition may experience different symptoms.

Common signs and symptoms may include the following:

  • Seeing double
  • Blurriness
  • Headaches
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of smell
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Numbness
  • Speech problems
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in behavior

If you have the above-described symptoms, you should go to a hospital and get a definite diagnosis.


Diagnosis

Diagnosing a meningioma can be hard because it causes few symptoms at first and grows very slowly. So, the condition is often diagnosed after it causes symptoms.

In order to give an accurate diagnosis, the doctor usually orders imaging tests to better visualize the situation.

  • Magnetic resonance (MR) scans. This test can provide detailed images of organs and tissues like the brain and spinal cord. With the result, the doctor can find out where the tumor is and how big the tumor is. Also, whether the tumor has influenced its surrounding tissues can also be known.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. Using X-rays and computer technology, CT scans can provide detailed images of bones and soft tissues. This test enables the doctor to check the amounts of calcium deposits, which is very common in meningiomas.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). With detailed cross-sectional images of the structures within the brain, the doctor can locate the meningioma and determine its size in an easier way.
  • A biopsy. In some cases, a biopsy may also be made. A sample of the affected tissue is taken to the laboratory for testing. The result will tell whether the tumor is a benign one or a malignant one.

Treatment

Before the patient with meningioma is treated, several factors need to be taken into consideration, such as:

  • The size of the meningioma
  • The location of the meningioma
  • The rate of growth of the meningioma
  • The patient’s age
  • The patient’s overall health

For each patient with meningioma, the doctor may tailor his or her treatment planning according to the specific situations. At present, there are several treatment options available.

Wait-and-See Approach

If the tumor does not cause any symptoms, the doctor may recommend the patient to have periodic brain scans and keep monitoring the rate of growth of the tumor.

Surgery

If the doctor finds that the tumor is growing and causing symptoms, then surgery may be recommended by the doctor. The fundamental goal of surgery is to remove the tumor completely. But taking the location of the tumor into consideration, complete removal may be impossible sometimes because some tumors may occur near many delicate structures. In this case, the doctor will try to remove as many tumors as possible.

Radiation therapy

After the surgery, radiation therapy may be needed if the tumors have not been removed completely. But the situation often varies. If there is no visible tumor, then further treatment may be unnecessary. The doctor may only order periodic brain scans for the patients.

But if there are still leftover tumors, radiation therapy may be recommended by the doctor to kill the following meningioma cells. This therapy also aims at preventing the tumors from recurrence.

Stereotactic radiosurgery fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy all belong to radiation therapy. Which method to choose depends on the specific situations of the patients.

Chemotherapy

Actually, chemotherapy is rarely used in treating meningiomas. But when radiation therapy does not work, the doctor may have the patients try this method.

Others

Apart from the above treatment methods, there are also other methods available. Although these methods may not cure the tumors, they can provide relief and comfort for patients with the condition. They may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Music therapy
  • Relaxation exercises

Keywords: meningioma.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.