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What is a meningioma?

A meningioma is a type of tumor that grows in the meninges which are layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord. Even though it is referred to as a brain tumor, meningioma is technically not a brain tumor because it does not arise from brain tissue. Meningioma is usually non-cancerous, or benign which means these tumors do not tend to spread to distant parts of the body. Because of their location, meningiomas can still cause neurological problems. As meningioma grow, they can compress the brain and spinal cord which creates serious symptoms.


What causes meningiomas?

Like many tumors, the exact cause of meningiomas is unknown; hormonal fluctuations may encourage the growth of these tumors, but more research is needed to confirm this.


What are the symptoms of meningiomas?

Meningiomas usually grow slowly, and you may show any symptoms until the tumor has become large. Depending on where the tumor is growing, it can cause different symptoms which can include:

  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Trouble walking
  • Loss of smell
  • Weakness in an arm or leg
  • Headache
  • Nausea


How are meningiomas diagnosed?

Usually, meningiomas are diagnosed because of symptoms a person is having. The following tests may also be done to diagnose meningiomas:

  • A neurological exam where your physician will ask about your symptoms and may do a neurological exam to look for changes in motor and sensory function, vision, coordination, balance, mental status, and in mood or behavior.
  • Imaging; your physician may diagnose a meningioma using an MRI or CT scan to get a picture of the brain and nearby areas
  • Biobsy; your physician may want to remove a sample of the tumor to examine it under a microscope before making the diagnosis.


How is meningioma treated?

Not all meningiomas need to be treated right away. If your meningioma is causing symptoms or growing, your physician may want to remove it with surgery. In some cases, trying to remove the tumor may be too risky if it is too close to a vital brain area or blood vessel. If you do have surgery, your physician will remove as much of the tumor as possible. Images from an MRI scan may be used to help your physician throughout the surgery. In addition, a special microscope may be used to get a better view of the tumor and the surrounding areas of your brain. If your physician cannot remove the tumor, or can only remove part of it surgically, radiation therapy may be needed. Radiation may help reduce any remaining tumor and can help prevent it from spreading to the tissues around it. 

Even if your physician was able to remove the tumor completely during surgery, radiation therapy may still be recommended to help prevent another meningioma from developing in the future because these tumors have a tendency to grow back after surgery. 

In addition, your physician may recommend medications to treat the tumor. These medications can help treat symptoms caused by the tumor such as seizures, excessive vomiting, weakness, and vision disturbances.