Meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges – the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. The majority of meningiomas are benign (noncancerous). Rarely, a meningioma can be malignant (cancerous). Meningiomas occur most commonly in adults, although they can occasionally occur during childhood. Women are more likely to develop a meningioma.
As meningiomas grow larger, symptoms such as headaches, seizures and weakness in the arms and legs may arise. Meningiomas usually grow very slowly, allowing for the brain to compensate with minimal symptoms initially. Changes in vision, such as seeing double or blurriness, are also occasionally associated with meningiomas.
A CT scan or MRI scan usually identifies the meningioma. Frequently, these lesions are discovered incidentally during a work up for unrelated neurological symptoms.
Meningiomas do not always require immediate treatment. A small meningioma that causes no significant signs or symptoms may be monitored over time for signs of growth. A small meningioma that never grows may never require treatment. For tumors that are larger or are causing signs and symptoms, surgery is often recommended. Meningiomas that arise in the brain are often treated through a routine craniotomy for resection of the lesion. Spinal meningiomas may also be removed through routine laminectomy approaches. At times, surgery is unable to completely remove the meningiomas of the brain. This may be due to the meningioma occurring near delicate structures. In those cases, the meningioma is removed as completely as possible. Residual meningiomas may be treated with either radiation therapy or radiosurgery.
Radiosurgery is a specific type of radiation treatment that aims many beams of powerful radiation at a very precise point. This is a noninvasive treatment aimed at stopping the growth of a tumor. At times, radiosurgery is appropriate as an initial treatment for a meningioma in an attempt to avoid an invasive surgery.
In most cases, meningiomas are completely treatable lesions that can oftentimes be cured. There are rarer cases that involve an unresectable meningioma, which can pose problems with future growth. There are also rare cases of meningiomas being cancerous, requiring other extensive treatments including chemotherapy and radiation therapy.