Overview and Facts about Meningioma
Meningioma is a common brain tumor that accounts for 34 percent of all primary brain tumors and originates in the meninges, the three protective layers surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. The middle layer of the meninges, called the arachnoid, is where meningiomas form.
Although typically benign (noncancerous), these slow-growing tumors can become very large if they are not discovered and can be disabling and life-threatening if not treated.
Signs and Symptoms of Meningioma
Most meningiomas do not cause symptoms until they grow larger and press on the brain. The most common symptoms are experiencing headaches for weeks to months, weakness or paralysis, visual field reduction and speech problems. Depending on the location of the tumor, other symptoms may include the following:
- Balance problems
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty with memory
- Facial muscle weakness
- Subtle personality changes
Causes and Risk Factors of Meningioma
Meningiomas are most common in adults between the ages of 40 and 70 and affect women more than men. Others at higher risk include those who have had radiation treatment to the head and people with neurofibromatosis, an inherited nervous system disorder.
The exact cause of this type of tumor is unknown. Research suggests that the tumors may be caused by genetic factors, while some studies show a correlation between meningiomas and hormones.
Tests and Diagnosis of Meningioma
A patient with symptoms will be given a neurological exam to evaluate reflexes, muscle strength, coordination, eye and mouth movement and alertness. If a tumor is suspected, the patient will have the following tests performed:
- Biopsy: In this test, the doctor examines the tissue under a microscope to determine a definitive diagnosis
- Cerebral angiogram: Rarely, this exam may be given to determine the source of blood to the tumor, or how the tumor is affecting blood flow in the brain
- Imaging tests: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans detect the presence of a tumor. An MRI, which uses a contrast dye to enhance images of the brain, is the preferred imaging technique as it can give a more precise picture of a tumor’s location and size.
Treatment and Care for Meningiomas
Up to 85 percent of meningiomas are successfully cured with neurological surgery. Surgeons may use one of three procedures:
- Craniotomy: In this procedure, an incision is made in the scalp, and a piece of bone is removed from the skull to access and remove the tumor
- Endoscopic endonasal surgery: This is a minimally invasive procedure that reaches and removes the tumor through the nose
- Neuroendoscopic surgery: During this procedure, the surgeon inserts an endoscope (a small, flexible, lighted tube) and specialized surgical instruments through a small hole made in the skull to remove the tumor
Radiation treatment may be used for tumors that cannot be completely removed during surgery, for recurring tumors or for patients who are not surgical candidates.