What Is Meningioma?
A meningioma is a slow-growing tumor in the meninges. The meninges cover the brain or spinal cord.
Most meningioma tumors are benign (noncancerous). These tumors can occur anywhere around the brain or spine, including the skull base.
Many meningiomas are dome shaped. Some, called calcified meningiomas, contain cysts or mineral deposits. Other meningiomas have many tiny blood vessels.
Meningioma tumors occur when cells in the meninges grow out of control. A meningioma tumor can occur without a specific known cause.
Radiation therapy to the brain or spine can cause meningiomas to form.
Meningiomas may also occur in people with other conditions linked to tumor development.
Conditions Associated with Meningiomas
Some patients with meningioma have a rare condition called neurofibromatosis (NF). NF is a condition that causes brain, spinal cord or nerve tumors. Meningioma tumors are also connected with Gorlin syndrome. This rare genetic disorder puts people at higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, including basal cell skin cancer and medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
Most meningiomas are slow growing. These tumors affect each patient differently. Symptoms of a meningioma vary based on its location. For example, a meningioma tumor at the skull base can impact vision, hearing and sense of smell.
People with a meningioma may have one or more of the following:
- Hearing loss
- Hormonal irregularities
- Pressure behind the eyes
- Trouble smelling
- Vision problems
Diagnosing meningioma involves a physical exam and medical imaging tests. Imaging tests used to diagnose meningioma include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).
Doctors may also perform a biopsy to diagnose meningioma. A biopsy involves removing tissue from the tumor. Specialized doctors, called pathologists, then analyze the tissue to look for meningioma cells.
Meningioma treatment needs a multidisciplinary team of doctors and surgeons. Specialists in meningioma care include:
- Cancer doctors (oncologists, neuro-oncologists and radiation oncologists)
- Ear, nose and throat doctors
If a meningioma causes symptoms or continues to grow, doctors may recommend removal.
Meningioma surgery is used to remove meningioma tumors. Surgeons use a technique called surgical resection. This removes as much of the meningioma tumor as possible.
Medical teams may use an MRI during surgery for the best surgical outcomes. This imaging tool allows surgeons to see, in real time, how much of the tumor has been removed.
After surgery, some patients benefit from stereotactic radiosurgery. During stereotactic radiosurgery, doctors deliver radiation to hard-to-reach areas. This may be done to try to remove any parts of the tumor that could not be removed during surgery. It may also be done to prevent the tumor from returning in the future.
The five-year survival rate for people with meningiomas is 63.8%. Children have an even better prognosis. Long-term survival rates for children top 95%. The best outcomes occur when surgeons can remove most or all the meningioma tumor.
Hormonal issues caused by meningiomas may last after treatment. Doctors may use medicines to treat hormonal irregularities.