For many patients, a diagnosis of a brain tumor can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many types of brain tumors, including meningioma of the brain, are treatable. Some meningiomas don’t even require removal – they can simply be monitored by a specialist. Learn more about this type of brain tumor, its symptoms, and the treatment options available from Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics.
What Is a Meningioma?
The most common type of tumor that forms in the head, a meningioma, is a brain tumor that forms within the meninges. The meninges is the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Though it is not technically considered a brain tumor, as it does not develop from within the brain tissue, it is often categorized as one because the symptoms of a meningioma can affect the brain. The pressure from the size of the tumor pushes on the brain, nerves, and vessels, which can cause serious disabilities and lead to brain herniation if allowed to grow too large.
What Are the Risk Factors for Meningioma?
It is largely unclear what causes many meningiomas of the brain to develop. However, several known risk factors may increase a patient’s likelihood of developing this condition. Meningiomas affect women more often than men and typically occur in older adults – according to American Association of Neurological Surgeons, one’s risk significantly increases after age 65. Common risk factors for meningioma may include:
- Hormones: Research suggests that there may be a link between breast cancer and meningiomas. Female hormones may contribute to this development.
- Genetics: Neurofibromatosis 2, an inherited nervous system disorder, increases the risk of meningiomas and other brain tumors.
- Obesity: Several studies have found a higher prevalence of meningiomas among obese patients. Having a high body mass index (BMI) is an established risk factor for many types of cancers.
- Radiation treatment: Patients may be at an increased risk of developing a meningioma if they’ve received treatments that involve radiation to the head.
What Are the Symptoms of Meningioma?
Because this type of tumor grows very slowly, symptoms of meningiomas often develop gradually. The specific symptoms of a meningioma depend on where the tumor is located in the brain or the spine. As these tumors grow, patients might not notice any symptoms at first, but start then too slowly notice deficiencies or changes in their ability to function. Once the diagnosis of a meningioma is confirmed, patients can monitor their symptoms over time without having to have treatment unless the symptoms become too debilitating. A diagnosis must first be confirmed because other brain tumors must be removed immediately and cannot wait. Common symptoms include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Ringing in the ears and hearing loss
- Loss of memory
- Loss of smell
- Difficulty speaking
- Loss of muscle function in the arms or legs
Though these meningioma signs often develop gradually, there are instances when the tumor demands emergency medical attention. If patients experience sudden changes in memory, balance, strength, vision, or the new onset of seizures, they should dial 911 and head to their nearest emergency room right away. Otherwise, patients should seek experienced medical care when they notice persistent, concerning symptoms that worsen with time. It’s also important to note that these symptoms don’t always indicate the presence of a tumor and could be the result of other health issues.
How Are Meningiomas Diagnosed?
The diagnosis process for a meningioma will include a comprehensive physical examination, including taking vital signs and recording the individual’s medical history. To rule out other conditions, a patient’s neurologist may also perform imaging tests, such as:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Using radio waves and a magnetic field, this imaging technique produces cross-sectional pictures of brain structures, providing an in-depth, detailed look at the severity of the tumor (if present).
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: This method utilizes a series of X-rays to create a full image of the brain with cross-sectional pictures. Iodine-based dyes are typically used for CT scans.
If a tumor is identified, a neurosurgeon will likely take a biopsy (sample) of the tumor to confirm the type of tumor and rule out other types of tumors. Overall, these tests help the doctor confirm a meningioma is present and determine its size and location.
If a patient is diagnosed with a meningioma, their treatment plan will depend on factors such as the size and location of the tumor, the rate at which the tumor is growing, and the overall health and age of the patient. Treatment options for patients with meningiomas may include:
If a patient isn’t showing any symptoms, the doctor might recommend monitoring the tumor over time. Periodic brain scans may be administered to observe its growth rate.
Surgery may be recommended for patients who are experiencing symptoms or if the tumor seems to be growing. This type of tumor may be surgically removed and lead to an increased chance of a full recovery. Most commonly, patients with meningiomas undergo a craniotomy procedure, which takes the following steps:
- The surgeon makes an incision along the scalp.
- A piece of bone is removed from the skull.
- The surgeon removes the tumor (or as much as safely possible).
Learn More about Treating Meningiomas in NJ
When primary care physicians suspect a tumor such as a meningioma, they will refer their patient to a specialist like the team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO). At CNSO, each patient receives comprehensive and coordinated care from a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, including board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, interventional pain management physicians, and certified physical therapists. Serving patients throughout Northern New Jersey, CNSO is experienced in advanced medical techniques and technologies to provide accurate diagnoses and offer the most effective treatment options available for meningiomas and other conditions. For more information about CNSO, contact the office today.