Definition

What is meningioma?

A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges — the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas are noncancerous (benign), though rarely a meningioma may be cancerous (malignant). Some meningiomas are classified as atypical, meaning they’re neither benign nor malignant but, rather, something in between.

Meningiomas occur most commonly in older women. But a meningioma can occur in males and at any age, including childhood.

A meningioma doesn’t always require immediate treatment. A meningioma that causes no significant signs and symptoms may be monitored over time.

How common is meningioma?

Meningioma can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of meningioma?

The common symptoms of meningioma are:

  • Changes in vision, such as seeing double or blurriness
  • Headaches that worsen with time
  • Hearing loss
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of smell
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in your arms or legs

Signs and symptoms of a meningioma typically begin gradually and may be very subtle at first. Depending on where in the brain or, rarely, spine the tumor is situated, signs and symptoms may vary.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Seek emergency care if you have:

  • Sudden onset of seizures
  • Sudden changes in your vision or memory

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that concern you, such as headaches that worsen over time.

Causes

What causes meningioma?

It isn’t clear what causes a meningioma. Doctors know that something alters some cells in your meninges — the membranes that form a protective barrier around your brain and spinal cord — to make them multiply out of control, leading to a meningioma tumor. But whether this occurs because of genes you inherit, things you’re exposed to in your environment, hormones or a combination of these factors remains unknown.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for meningioma?

There are many risk factors for meningioma, such as:

  • Radiation treatment. Radiation therapy that involves radiation to the head may increase the risk of a meningioma.
  • Female hormones. meningiomas are more common in women, leading doctors to believe that female hormones may play a role.
  • An inherited nervous system disorder. The rare disorder neurofibromatosis type 2 increases the risk of meningioma and other brain tumors.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is meningioma diagnosed?

A meningioma may be detected on an imaging test, such as:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take X-rays that create cross-sectional images (like slices) of your brain and head. These images are combined together by a computer to create a full picture of your brain. Sometimes an iodine-based dye is used to augment the picture.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). With this imaging study, a magnetic field and radio waves are used to create cross-sectional images of the structures within your brain. MRI scans provide a more detailed picture of the brain and meningiomas.

How is meningioma treated?

The treatment you receive for a meningioma depends on many factors, including the size of your meningioma, where it’s situated and how aggressive it’s believed to be. Your doctor will also take into consideration your overall health and your goals for treatment.

Wait-and-see approach

Immediate treatment isn’t necessary for everyone with a meningioma. A small, slow-growing meningioma that isn’t causing signs or symptoms may not require treatment.

If the plan is not to undergo treatment for your meningioma, you’ll likely have brain scans periodically to evaluate your meningioma and look for signs that it’s growing.

If your doctor determines your meningioma is growing and needs to be treated, you have several treatment options.

Surgery

If your meningioma causes signs and symptoms or shows signs that it’s growing, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgeons work to remove the meningioma completely. But because a meningioma may occur near many delicate structures in the brain or spinal cord, it isn’t always possible to remove the entire tumor. In those cases, surgeons remove as much of the meningioma as possible.

The type of treatment, if any, you need after surgery depends on several factors.

  • If no visible tumor remains, then no further treatment may be necessary. However, you will have periodic follow-up scans.
  • If the tumor is benign and only a small piece remained, then your doctor may recommend periodic follow-up scans only. In some cases, small leftover tumors may be treated with a form of radiation treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery.
  • If the tumor is atypical or malignant, you’ll likely need radiation.

Surgery may pose risks including infection and bleeding. The specific risks of your surgery will depend on where your meningioma is located. For instance, surgery to remove a meningioma that occurs around the optic nerve can lead to vision loss. Ask your surgeon about the specific risks of your surgery.

Radiation therapy

If your meningioma can’t be completely removed, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy following surgery. The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy any remaining meningioma cells and reduce the chance that your meningioma may recur. Radiation therapy uses a large machine to aim high-powered energy beams at the tumor cells.

Advances in radiation therapy increase the dose of radiation to the meningioma while reducing radiation to healthy tissue. These include fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Proton beam radiation may be an option, but whether this is superior to standard radiation is unclear.

Radiosurgery

Radiosurgery is a type of radiation treatment that aims several beams of powerful radiation at a precise point. Contrary to its name, radiosurgery doesn’t involve scalpels or incisions. Radiosurgery typically is done in an outpatient setting in a few hours. Radiosurgery may be an option for people with meningiomas that can’t be removed with conventional surgery or for meningiomas that recur despite treatment.

Fractionated radiation

For tumors too large for radiosurgery or those in an area that can’t tolerate the high intensity of radiosurgery — such as near the optic nerve — a possible option is fractionated radiation. This involves delivering the radiation in small fractions over time. For example, this approach might require one treatment a day for 30 days.

Drugs

For people with meningiomas that recur or don’t respond to surgery and radiation, doctors are trying different system treatments. Unfortunately, most chemotherapy has not proved valuable, but some drugs, such as hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea), are sometimes used. Other drugs are being tested as well, such as those that prevent the release of growth hormones (somatostatin analogs). More recently, medications that inhibit the tumor’s ability to recruit blood vessels (angiogenesis inhibitors) have shown some promise, but the data is preliminary. Much more study is needed.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage meningioma?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with meningioma:

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

Alternative medicine treatments can’t treat meningiomas, but some may help provide relief from treatment side effects or help you cope with the stress of having a meningioma. Discuss options with your doctor.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: June 25, 2017 | Last Modified: June 25, 2017

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