What is Meningioma?
This is a type of brain tumor that develops in your meninges, which is the membrane that covers your spinal cord and brain. Although it is not dangerous in the beginning stages if it grows in size it can be harmful. In cases of meningioma tumors approximately only two percent are cancerous but some are referred to as atypical which means they are neither cancerous nor non-cancerous but in between the two. You will see these more in women than men and can happen at any age although they are more common in older women between the ages of thirty and fifty. Harvey Cushing coined the term meningioma, which refers to a set of tumors. In the United States approximately six thousand five hundred people have meningioma. Meningioma is considered to be a low grade tumor because they usually do not spread to anywhere else in the body and grow slow.
In the beginning stages the symptoms are not usually noticeable. The type of symptoms that a person might have depends on the location and size of the meningioma. This type of tumor can either be slow or fast growing and found in one or more sites. The symptoms will vary from patient to patient because they do develop in different areas of the membrane.
Here are some of the symptoms based on where the meningioma is located.
This type is found in the membrane behind the eyes. Twenty percent of the cases of meningioma are found in this area. Because the meningioma hinders the blood flow to your brain and face, most of the symptoms will be noticed in your face. Some of these symptoms include:
- Having problems viewing both distant and near objects
- Vision that is blurred
- Face numbness
- Loss of sensation
This type is found in the brain membranes and the symptoms are associated with the front portion of your brain. In this area the meningioma are observed when they are grow quite huge. Some of the symptoms include:
- Mental changes
- Loss of concentration
- Problems with making decisions and focusing
- May also hamper your ability to write and your speech
Posterior fossa meningioma
This type is found in approximately ten percent of cases of meningioma and is associated with the bottom surface of your brain. The symptoms are caused by the pressure on your cranial nerves. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Hearing loss
- Difficulty with swallowing
- Numbness or sharp pains in your face
- Loss of balance that could result in trouble doing tasks and walking.
- Difficulty in speaking
Olfactory groove meningioma
This type of tumor is found in the areas between your nose and brain and can put pressure on your optical nerves. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Having your sense of smell harmed
- Having vision problems
- Becoming blind or having trouble visualizing things.
- Having a personality change, disturbed mental condition, or being irritable if the tumor is not treated in time.
Falx and parasagittal meningioma
This type is where most meningioma is found. It is found in path of your blood vessels and can affect their functioning. The most common symptom is:
- Weakness in your legs
The symptoms of this type of meningioma are a bit different from meningioma in your brain. As the meningioma grows the pain felt may be severe. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Pain in your back and limbs
- Pain in your chest sometimes
Cavernous sinus meningioma
A cavernous is a structure that resembles a pocket in which the blood drained by the brain, eyes, and face are collected. Most of the symptoms are related to your eyes. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Vision that is blurred
- Redness in your eyes
- Pain behind your eyes
- Bulging of your eye
- Eye movements which are difficult.
This type affects the meninges between the hemispheres of your brain. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Behavioral changes
- Weakness in your lower extremities
This type affects both sides of your brain stem. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Increased pressure in your brain
- Difficulties in swallowing and speaking
- Complete loss of your hearing
There is no specific clear cause for developing meningioma but what physicians do know is that there is something that is altering some of the cells in the meninges that makes them multiply our of control. They do not know if the cause is because of things that you have been exposed to in the environment, genes that you have inherited, or if it is a combination of both of these factors.
The treatment for meningioma is based on the cause and the symptoms a patient has. Your physician will also look at the size of the meningioma, how aggressive it appears to be, and where it is located. They will also look at the age of the patient and their overall health. Your physician could prescribe anticonvulsants and steroids. To help avoid the side effects of these medications your physician may prescribe histamine 2 receptor blocker. How much medication is taken will vary with each case of meningioma.
If the physician does not decide to do treatment at the time the meningioma is diagnosed you may have brain scans periodically in order to evaluate the meningioma and to see if it is growing. The brain scans may happen every few months in the beginning and then it may go to once a year.
Treatment options can include:
- Radiation therapy
- Fractionated radiation which can be used in areas that cannot stand the high intensity of having radio-surgery.
- Radio-surgery which is when several beams of powerful radiation are aimed at a specific point.
Surgery may be recommended if there are signs that the meningioma is growing. With surgery the surgeon will try to remove it completely. It may not always be possible to remove the entire meningioma if it happens near many of the delicate structures that are found on your spinal cord or brain. If it is in any of these delicate structures the surgeon will try to remove as much of it as possible.