A tumor which arises from the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord is known as a meningioma. The membranes themselves are called meninges. Most are benign (noncancerous), but on rare occasions, can be malignant. Others are classified as atypical (somewhere in between).
The most common occurrences of meningiomas are in older women, but may also appear in men of all ages.
Tumors presenting no signs or symptoms are usually monitored closely before treatment is decided. A majority of instances call for the wait-and-see approach.
Symptoms are typically progressive depending on where in the brain or, rarely, spine, the mass is located. Some indicators are:
- Double or blurred vision
- Progressive headaches
- Hearing loss
- Memory loss
- Weakness in extremities
Most symptoms are subtle and progress slowly. Seek immediate medical attention if you suddenly experience symptoms.
Treatment is dependent on many factors:
- Overall health
- Treatment goals
- Tumor aggressiveness
A small and slow-growing meningioma, or one that causes no symptoms, usually does not require immediate treatment.
Periodic brain scans to monitor the tumor are usually recommended if treatment is not an option. A personalized schedule will be set by your doctor for tracking the mass’s growth. If observation is not an option, surgery may be recommended.
Surgery may be recommended if the meningioma causes symptoms or shows signs of growth. The surgery’s goal is to resect as much of the tumor as possible, but this is not always the case as the growth may occur near delicate structures. In those instances, doctors remove as much of the tumor as they can and then treat the residual tissue, post-surgery.
Post-operative treatment depends on:
- If there are no remnants of a visible tumor, no further treatment may be necessary. Follow-up scans may be conducted periodically as a precaution.
- If a small piece of a noncancerous tumor remains, stereotactic radiosurgery can be recommended to shrink the mass. In most cases, periodic brain scans will be enough to monitor the tumor.
- If the tumor is cancerous or atypical, you will most likely require radiation treatment.
Radiation therapy is usually recommended if the complete removal of the meningioma is not possible. Radiation aims to destroy the remaining tumor cells and reduces their chance of returning.
A recurring meningioma, or those which cannot be resected with conventional surgery, may yield better results from radiosurgery. Despite its name, radiosurgery does not involve the use of invasive surgical tools or incisions. The procedure is outpatient and aims radiation beams to specific areas in hopes of targeting tumor cells for destruction while leaving surrounding cells unharmed.