What Is a Meningioma?
Last Updated: May 8, 2023
The brain is a vital organ that controls all bodily functions, and brain tumors that are abnormal growths can cause serious complications.
When it comes to brain tumors, meningioma is one of the most common types. According to a recent survey, it accounts for 40% of primary brain tumors in the United States. But what is meningioma, and who is most at risk of developing this condition?
Meningioma is a type of brain tumor that develops in the meninges, which is the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These tumors are typically slow-growing and are not cancerous. Still, benign tumors can cause damage since they press on surrounding brain tissues, leading to symptoms such as headaches, seizures, and memory loss.
There are some very rare cases, however, of meningiomas being malignant and more aggressive.
What Causes Meningioma?
The exact cause of meningiomas is still unknown, and they occur in people of all ages and genders. However, research has identified factors that may increase the chances of developing this type of tumor.
Age is one of the primary risk factors for this condition. The incidence of meningioma increases as the person grows older, with the highest rates occurring in people over the age of 60. In addition, women are twice as likely to develop meningioma than men. Hormonal factors may play a role in this gender disparity, as the tumor often contains estrogen and progesterone receptors.
Other risk factors include:
- Exposure to radiation
- Family history of meningioma
- Certain genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1)
- Lifestyle choices
Symptoms of Meningioma
The symptoms of meningioma can vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Sometimes, the growth may not cause symptoms and may only be discovered during a routine brain scan.
If the tumor is pressing on the brain or spinal cord, it causes the following symptoms.
- Seizures: Seizures are one of the most common symptoms of meningioma. These seizures range from mild to severe and are considered the first sign of meningioma, even before other symptoms appear.
- Headaches: Headaches associated with meningioma are often described as a pressure-like sensation in the head and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The location of the headache can also vary depending on where the tumor is located on the brain.
- Forgetfulness: Patients may experience difficulty remembering recent events or conversations and have trouble with short-term memory. In some cases, patients may also experience confusion or difficulty with language, such as finding the right words to express themselves.
- Personality Changes: Personality changes may include irritability, mood swings and a lack of interest in activities the patient used to enjoy.
- Blurred Vision: This can occur due to pressure on the optic nerve, which causes visual disturbances such as double vision, loss of peripheral vision or even complete vision loss in severe cases.
The symptoms discussed above can also be caused by other conditions, so it is essential to seek medical attention to get a formal diagnosis.
How Fast Does a Meningioma Grow
The growth rate can vary widely, with some meningiomas growing slowly over several years or even decades. On average, the tumor increases by only one to two millimeters annually.
Several factors, including its location, influence a meningioma's growth rate. Tumors in areas of the brain that are more prone to movement or pressure, such as near the skull base or spinal cord, may grow more quickly than those in other areas.
However, there is no definite way of knowing how fast does a meningioma grow since it varies from person to person. So, ongoing checkups and scans still need to be performed to monitor the tumor's growth and prevent unexpected consequences.
What Is a Meningioma Grade?
Meningiomas are graded based on their level of aggressiveness, which is determined by the tumor's appearance under a microscope. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies meningiomas into three grades.
- Grade I: The most common meningiomas and least aggressive type. They grow slowly and are typically non-cancerous.
- Grade II: These meningiomas are more aggressive than Grade I tumors and have a higher chance of recurring after treatment.
- Grade III: These meningiomas are considered to be the most aggressive and fortunately are very rare. They grow rapidly and have a higher chance of spreading to other parts of the body.
Treatment Options for a Meningioma
Knowing the answer to “what is a meningioma” is the first step to getting the proper treatment. The ideal approach depends on several factors, including the tumor's size, location, and grade. The patient's age, lifestyle, and medical history are also considered before doctors recommend a treatment plan.
The most common treatments for this condition are the following:
- Surgery: Surgery is the most utilized treatment method for meningioma, especially if the tumor is causing symptoms or is situated in a critical area of the brain. Surgery aims to remove as much of the growth as possible without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy involves using high-energy beams to kill tumor cells. It may be used as the primary treatment for meningiomas that cannot be removed entirely with surgery or as a follow-up treatment to kill any remaining tumor cells.
- Active Surveillance: This is a treatment option for patients with Grade I meningiomas or small tumors that are not causing any symptoms. This approach involves regular monitoring through imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans to detect any tumor size changes.
While meningiomas are usually benign, they can still cause severe symptoms and complications if gone untreated. For this reason, it is essential to research “what is meningioma and the best treatment options if you are diagnosed with one.”
Early detection and strict monitoring are crucial to managing the tumor and preventing long-term damage. If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms, seeking medical attention right away is essential. With proper care and management, individuals with meningioma can lead fulfilling and healthy lives.
Need a second opinion for your current diagnosis? Contact us today.