A meningioma is a common benign intracranial tumor that chiefly arises on the three layers of the meninges (i.e., the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord). Although it isn’t a brain tumor, it is considered one since it compresses the adjacent brain, nerves and vessels. Meningiomas are usually slow-growing and about 90% of them are benign in nature. These tumours can be there for many years without any symptoms but sometimes their effects on nearby brain tissue, nerves or vessels may cause chronic disabilities. They are more common in women and generally diagnosed in older people.
Some meningiomas are categorized as atypical (i.e., they are not considered either benign or malignant), however they may become malignant over time. The small percentage of meningiomas which are cancerous grow quite fast and quickly spread to other parts of the brain and even to distant organs beyond the lungs.
The exact cause of meningioma is yet unknown, but several studies and researches surface that just like cancer it may happen when some cells of the meninges get mutated which leads to abnormally shaped cells that do not die and keep accumulating to form tumour-like structures. This may happen due to inherited genes or hormonal changes (in case of women), or certain degree exposure to radiation.
Certain factors that increase the risk of meningiomas include:
Age: It is more common in older people than younger individuals.
Gender: Women are more prone to meningioma than men.
Exposure To Radiation: Getting exposed to radiation especially to the head may increase the risk of a meningioma.
Female Hormones: Secretion of excessive female hormones play a key role in the formation of Meningiomas in women.
Inherited Disorder: Getting diagnosed with a rare neural disorder known as neurofibromatosis 2 increases the risk of meningioma and other brain tumors.
Obesity: A high BMI increases the risk for many types of cancers, and a higher incidence of meningiomas.
The primary signs and symptoms of meningioma develops gradually and may be quite subtle in the beginning. Depending upon the exact location, the symptoms include:
- Vision abnormalities, such as seeing double vision or blurriness
- Headaches, worsening in the morning
- Hearing loss or ringing in the ears as in the case of tinnitus
- Loss of smell
- Memory loss
- Weakness in your arms or legs
- Speech difficulty
If the tumour is left untreated for a long time, it may give rise to the following complications:
- Difficulty in concentration
- Memory loss
- Sensory changes
- Speech difficulty
- Changes in personality
Diagnosis And Treatment
Since the symptoms appear quite late, it is difficult to diagnose and are often written off as underlying symptoms of some other health condition or as signs of growing age. But if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor at once to start the treatment at the earliest. The specialized doctor or neurologist usually does a thorough physical check-up, acknowledges the patient’s family history and past medical history and does a series of diagnostics which include:
Imaging techniques: This involves CT-scan, MRI-scan, PET-scan and Ultrasound to find the exact position of the tumour and analyse it in detail.
Biopsy: A mass of tissue from the tumorous growth is analysed to determine the types of cells and their level of aggressiveness.
Treatment options usually depend upon the exact location of the tumour, its aggressiveness, health and severity of the patient and overall target to give the best possible option to bestow the patient with a normal life. This includes:
- Surgery to remove the tumour
- Radiation therapy (including Stereotactic radiosurgery, Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy, Proton beam radiation or Intensity-modulated radiation therapy)