There are many kinds of brain tumors, some cancerous, some benign. One of the most common benign brain tumors is called a meningioma.
A meningioma is a tumor that grows from the meninges, or the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Approximately 20 percent of all intracranial tumors are meningiomas. These tumors are most common in women between 30 to 50 years old, but can also occur in children and other adults.
Even though meningiomas are rarely cancerous, they can cause problems. Like any other brain tumor, symptoms are caused by a lack of space. An adult skull is like a box in that it cannot expand. Your skull holds your brain, meninges, and spinal fluid. Anything extra takes up space and presses on your brain.
Symptoms of pressure on your brain are similar no matter what is causing the problem. These symptoms can include:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Vision changes
• Poor coordination or balance
• Terrible headache
• Trouble with speech
The good thing about meningiomas is that they tend to grow very slowly. Sometimes they don’t even cause symptoms, and they can stay so small that the only treatment needed is repeated brain scans and tracking any change in symptoms.
When a meningioma causes problems, treatment often involves surgery. Treatment partially depends on where in the brain the tumor is located. Surgery cannot always remove the entire tumor if it is close to sensitive areas of the brain like the areas responsible for breathing. In those cases, the neurosurgeon will remove most of the tumor and that may be enough to get rid of symptoms, although the tumor may regrow. Meningiomas can also be treated with radiation or radiosurgery. Chemotherapy is not a common treatment for these tumors.
No one is sure what causes meningiomas to grow, but radiation exposure and certain genetic problems increase your risk, as does being female. If you develop symptoms of increased pressure in your brain, let your health care provider know.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital