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Overview of Surviving With Meningioma

Last Updated: September 18, 2022

Open Table of Contents: Overview of Surviving With Meningioma

Patients often have questions about what the future will hold following a diagnosis of meningioma. In this series of articles, we describe the recovery outlook and what life may look like after diagnosis. But first, we will provide an overview of these topics and encourage you to visit the links within to learn more.

Recovery Outlook

Although a diagnosis of meningioma can be scary, the prognosis is usually excellent. Most meningiomas are benign tumors that can be curatively removed with current treatment options. However, when determining life expectancy, it is important to consider many individual factors including the tumor grade, tumor location, as well as the age and health status of the patient.

The World Health Organization (WHO) grades meningioma tumors on a scale from I to III. This grading system describes tumor invasion and provides an indicator of the level of tumor aggressiveness or malignancy. Grade I tumors grow slowly and do not spread. As a result, they are considered benign and carry the best prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of over 95%. Fortunately, Grade I meningiomas are by far the most common type of meningioma.

Grade III tumors are the most aggressive and are considered malignant. They can invade neighboring tissue and spread throughout the body. Grade III meningiomas carry a 5-year survival rate of 60%. Grade II meningiomas exist between Grade I and Grade III and have a survival rate of over 90% at 5-years.

Other considerations for prognosis include the location of the tumor which may impact treatment decisions. The primary treatment for meningioma is complete surgical removal. However, in some instances the tumor may be in an area that makes it difficult or unsafe to remove completely. Residual tumor is associated with a higher rate of recurrence and overall worse prognosis. However, other treatment options such as radiotherapy may be used in addition to surgery to prevent a regrowth of the residual tumor.

Living With Meningioma

The outlook for patients with a meningioma can be unclear and intimidating but is often positive. While prognosis depends on several individual factors, outcomes are generally good.

The primary treatment method for meningioma is surgical removal. Since meningiomas cause symptoms by exerting pressure on the brain, complete removal of the tumor has the potential to eliminate any symptoms you are experiencing. However, surgery does not come without risk. Possible side-effects include difficulty speaking, impaired vision, memory problems, and loss of coordination. Oftentimes these symptoms are temporary. When planning for surgical treatment, it is important to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your surgeon.

Figure 1. This illustration demonstrates a meningioma compressing the brainstem. An attempt at complete surgical removal is the best course of treatment.

Figure 1. This illustration demonstrates a meningioma compressing the brainstem. An attempt at complete surgical removal is the best course of treatment.

With complete surgical removal, the rate of tumor recurrence is low. However, some tumors may be located near vital nervous system structures that make safe, complete removal impossible. Unfortunately, the presence of residual tumor raises the rate of recurrence. To combat this, residual tumor may be treated with radiation therapy.

In some instances, treatment of meningiomas may not be necessary. A watchful waiting approach may be adopted if the meningioma is discovered incidentally. This can happen if the tumor is small and does not cause any symptoms. This approach may be adopted to avoid potentially unnecessary invasive surgical treatment. Watchful waiting involves frequent imaging so that any changes in the tumor can be detected early on. Since the majority of meningiomas are benign, they may never progress to the point of requiring treatment. If changes in the tumor are detected or symptoms develop, surgical intervention is indicated.

Conclusion

Receiving a diagnosis of meningioma can be intimidating and leaves people with many questions about their future. Prognosis is often positive but is dependent on several individual factors. It is important to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your care team.

Key Takeaways

  • The prognosis for meningiomas is often positive but is dependent on several individual characteristics including the tumor grade, location, and the age and health of the patient at diagnosis.
  • The primary treatment for meningioma is surgical removal. Complete removal has low rates of recurrence but may not be possible in some cases.
  • Some meningiomas may not need treatment and instead can be observed for growth and symptom development.

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