A Meningioma, also known as a meningeal tumor, refers to a slow-growing tumor that arises from the meninges- the membrane that encompasses the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas usually occur as benign non-cancerous tumors and often occur in the brain. It’s however not abnormal for them to grow on parts of the spinal cord.
Meningiomas come along as the most common type of tumor that originates in the central nervous system and occur more often in women than in men. Most meningiomas grow very slowly, often over many years without any significant signs and symptoms but sometimes, their effects on nearby brain tissue, nerves, or vessels may cause serious disability. These meningiomas which cause no immediate symptoms do not always require immediate treatment and constant monitoring may take place instead.
A minute number of meningiomas occur as cancerous tumors and therefore, they tend to grow quickly. These tumors, if not detected and treated immediately, can also spread to other parts of the brain and beyond, often to the lungs.
Signs and Symptoms of Meningioma
The signs and symptoms that accompany meningioma often grow gradually and likely to develop subtly. The signs and symptoms may include:
1- Hearing loss or a ringing sensation in the ears
2- Persistent headaches that may turn worse in the morning
3- Blurred vision
4- Abnormal weakness in arms or legs
5- Seizures and possible speech difficulty
Causes and Risk Factors of Meningioma
Most cases of meningioma occur randomly and research is still ongoing to determine the exact causes of this tumor. Scientists know that mutations cause cells to grow out of control and form a tumor. Some risk factors that may increase the risk of having a meningioma include:
1- Neurofibromatosis type 2
Neurofibromatosis type 2 refers to a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system and causes tumors to grow on nerves.
2- Exposure to Increased Levels of Radiation
Radiation exposure to the head may increase an individual’s risk of developing meningioma. One common source of radiation that can cause meningioma includes radiation therapy as a treatment for ringworm on the scalp, called tinea capitis.
Meningioma rarely develops among children but occurs commonly among middle-aged individuals between the ages of 30 and 70.
A study found that low physical activity, increased body mass index, and a history of uterine fibrosis may increase the risk of meningioma in older women.
Possible Prevention of Meningioma
Maintaining normal body weight and avoiding unnecessary dental x-rays may reduce the risk of meningioma.
Diagnosis of Meningioma
Diagnosing a meningioma may prove difficult due to it often occuring as a slow-growing tumor. In the case where symptoms indicate the possibility of a meningioma, the neurologist will conduct thorough neurological exams such as MRI and CT scans to locate the meningioma and determine its size.
Examination of the tumor sample (biopsy) may prove necessary in some cases to rule out other types of tumors and confirm a meningioma diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Meningioma
The treatment options for meningioma depend on a couple of factors including the size, location, and the rate of growth of the tumor.
Slow-growing meningiomas that occur without any signs and symptoms may not require treatment. The neurologist will determine if the meningioma grows aggressively after a series of periodic brain scans and then, may recommend one of the several treatment options.
In the case where the meningioma shows signs of aggressive growth or causes signs and symptoms, the neurologist may recommend surgery. The surgery procedure involves removing a piece of bone from the skull to give the neurologist access to the affected part of the brain. The neurologist then removes as much of the meningioma as possible.
Surgery procedures may pose risks including infection and bleeding depending on the location of the meningioma.
3- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy may occur if the meningioma remains even after the surgery procedure. This therapy makes use of a large machine to aim high-powered energy beams at the tumor cells to shrink the cells. Radiation therapy also helps prevent the meningioma from growing any larger.
Meningioma diagnosis and treatment. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/rare-brain-spine-tumor/tumors/meningioma. Accessed Nov. 14, 2021.
Park JK, et al. Management of known or presumed benign (WHO grade I) meningioma. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 14, 2021.
Apra C, et al. Current treatment options for meningioma. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 2018; doi:10.1080/14737175.2018.1429920.
Johnson DR, Olson JE, Vierkant RA, et al. Risk factors for meningioma in postmenopausal women: results from the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Neuro Oncol. 2011;13(9):1011-1019
Meningiomas. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Meningiomas. Accessed Nov. 14, 2021.
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