A meningioma is a type of tumour that occurs within the brain or spine. It originates from the middle of the three protective layers (meningies) around the brain and spine (the Arachnoid matter).
Meningiomas account for approximately 25 per cent of all brain and spinal tumours, and occur more frequently in women. Around two people in 100 000 will be diagnosed with meningioma, and many more remain undiagnosed. Meningiomas are usually very slow growing tumours and can take many years (up to 30 years in some cases) to become symptomatic. Meningiomas are almost always benign, however you should discuss your particular diagnosis with your doctor.
Causes and symptoms
There is no single identifiable cause of meningiomas. Radiation exposure, hormones and family history are all believed to be contributing factors. Pathologists have found that meningiomas have a high number of oestrogen receptors, and this may explain the higher prevalence of the tumours in women.
The symptoms you may experience from a meningioma vary depending on its size and location. Generally, the symptoms may include headaches, seizures and/or loss of function of the bodily area controlled by the affected part of the brain. These symptoms can be a result of a variety of factors.
- The meningioma may compress the surrounding brain tissue and increase pressure within your head, causing headaches.
- It may irritate the nerves within the brain upsetting its electrical activity, resulting in a seizure.
- The meningioma may invade into a certain area of the brain causing loss of function (e.g. a tumour within the part of the brain responsible for movement may result in a loss of movement).
- It may cause damage or obstruction to blood vessels within the brain which can result in stroke like symptoms.
Diagnosis and planning
In order to confirm a meningioma diagnosis, your doctor may request a biopsy of the tumour before deciding to proceed with other tests to identify the best methods of treatment.
To plan your treatment, your doctor may order different tests, including CT/MRI scans to accurately view the tumour’s location, and to see if it has affected surrounding brain tissue. During these scans, you may be injected with a dye, which allows certain areas to be viewed more clearly.
An angiogram may also be performed to view the blood vessels around the tumour.
It is important to remember that each person’s case is unique and needs individual diagnosis and treatment. If you have any concerns, always discuss them with your doctor.
The methods of treating a meningioma can very depending on its location, size and resulting symptoms. It is important to discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor to ascertain the best course of treatment for you.
While there are different treatment options, if there are symptoms associated with the tumour, surgery to remove the tumour will generally be recommended.
To surgically remove a meningioma within your brain, a procedure called a craniotomy will be performed by your neurosurgeon. With the use of stereotaxis, a precise method for locating tumours, the surgeon will be able to pinpoint the tumour’s location. This will result in the most accurate, and smallest, incision possible to remove the tumour.
For a meningioma of the spine, special spinal surgery is required to remove the tumour, while minimising any impact on the spinal cord.
Non-surgical treatments include medication, such as steroids to decrease the swelling around the tumour, and anti-epileptic medication to control any seizures.
If the tumour cannot be completely removed through surgery, returns after surgery or is malignant, your doctor may refer to you an oncologist for radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
There are several websites containing detailed information about meningiomas, listed below.
This information should be used as a guide only, and if you have any questions or concerns, you should always speak to your doctor.
Mater Private Hospital Brisbane
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Last modified 12/11/2015.