Key Points about Meningioma
- Meningioma is the most common type of tumor that can develop in the head.
- Doctors use imaging tests and physical exam to diagnose meningioma.
- Treatment for meningioma may include ongoing monitoring, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Meningioma is a type of tumor that begins in the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningioma is the most common type of tumor that can occur in the head.
This condition is caused by mutations (changes) in the DNA of the supportive tissue of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord.
Meningioma risk factors
The following factors may increase your risk for developing meningioma:
- Being female
- Being obese
- Having neurofibromatosis 2, a rare inherited nervous system disorder
- Having undergone radiation therapy to the head
Signs and symptoms of meningioma are typically very subtle at first and then grow in intensity over time. Symptoms of meningioma can include:
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Loss of smell
- Memory loss
- Trouble with speech
- Weakness in the arms or legs
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors. As part of this, your doctor will also perform a neurological exam, including checking your hearing, vision, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine if there is any cancer present. Your doctor may use a CT scan to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site, as well as to stage the cancer.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer. Your doctor may use MRI to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site, as well as to stage the cancer.
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the meningioma and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Watchful waiting – if your meningioma isn’t causing any troublesome symptoms and is slow-growing, your doctor may not recommend any treatment right away. If this occurs, your doctor will continue to monitor the meningioma through regular office visits and tests.
- Surgery – your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove as many of the cancerous cells as possible. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
- Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
- Chemotherapy – in rare cases in which the tumor can’t be removed surgically and isn’t responding to radiation therapy, you may need to undergo chemotherapy. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.