A meningioma is a tumor of the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord. This lining is called the meninges. Most meningiomas are benign (noncancerous), though some may be malignant (cancerous). Benign meningiomas are generally slow growing. This type of tumor may not cause problems. But, if the meningioma grows, it can compress important parts of the brain or cause symptoms (eg, vision problems, seizures).
Malignant meningiomas (also called aggressive or anaplastic) are less common. These tumors are faster growing. They often cause problems and can cause some swelling in the brain. Often both benign and malignant meningiomas require some form of therapy, surgery, and/or radiotherapy depending upon location.
The exact cause of meningiomas is unknown. However, there are a few theories under study. These include:
- Certain hormones may increase the growth of meningiomas.
- Radiation exposure, especially to the face, can increase the risk of developing meningiomas.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors for meningioma include:
Symptoms of meningioma are usually related to the area of the brain that is affected. Often the symptoms are caused by increased pressure within the skull, from blockage or inflammation. Symptoms may include:
- Visual problems
- Changes in behavior
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. You will also be given a neurologic test to assess your motor skills. Other tests may include:
MRI of Meningioma in the Brain
Treatment will depend on whether the tumor is malignant or benign, the size and position of the tumor, as well as your general health. The main types of treatment for meningiomas are:
Surgery may be recommended if the tumor is located in an area of the brain that is accessible to surgery. Most surgeries can be performed without causing neurologic damage.
In some instances, prior to surgery, a catheter may be inserted into blood vessels supplying the meningioma in order to disrupt the flow of blood to the tumor, causing it to shrink and making it easier to remove surgically.
Radiation therapy is used either on its own or after surgery has been performed. If the tumor is not located in an area of the brain where surgery can be safely done, and the tumor is causing problems, radiation therapy is an effective way of treating the tumor and stopping its growth. If the tumor is malignant, radiation is generally always offered. In this case, radiation may be given either on its own or after surgery to help prevent the tumor from coming back.
Your radiation oncologist will describe how the therapy is delivered and how many treatments are needed. You may receive 25-40 treatments on a daily basis, or far fewer treatments if you are having stereotactic radiotherapy (surgery).
Brain Tumor Action
National Cancer Institute
Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada
The Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition
Greenberg HS. Meningiomas. In: Gilman S, ed. MedLink Neurology. San Diego, CA: MedLink Corporation. Available at: http://www.medlink.com . Accessed March 17, 2007.
Johns Hopkins University website. Available at: http://www.jhu.edu/ .
Keller A, Ludwig N, Comtesse N, et al. H-P A minimally invasive multiple marker approach allows highly efficient detection of meningioma tumors. BMC Bioinformatics. 2006,7:539
Mayo Clinic. Meningioma. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sprained-ankle/DS01014. Updated April 8, 2010. Accessed May 27, 2010.
Last reviewed September 2009 by
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