Meningiomas are slow-growing tumors in membranes (meninges) that cover the surface of the brain, spinal cord, or spinal nerve root. About one-fifth of all brain tumors are meningiomas. Almost all meningiomas are benign (not cancerous), but they still cause problems because they press on the brain or spinal cord. Meningiomas occur nearly twice as often in women as in men, the most common age at time of diagnosis being 45. They are rare in children and adolescents. About 80% of people are cured if the tumor can be completely removed. Rarely, meningiomas are cancerous (malignant) and may recur quickly and destroy normal tissues nearby.
Meningiomas are caused by abnormal growth of cells on surface coverings of the brain, spinal cord, or spinal nerve roots. The cause of the abnormal growth is unknown.
Symptoms include headaches, vision changes, hearing changes, nausea and vomiting, weakness (especially on one side of the body), numbness or tingling, and loss of memory and the ability to think clearly. Meningiomas may sometimes irritate the brain’s surface and cause epilepsy (seizures).
The health care provider may suspect a meningioma on the basis of the medical history and physical examination. The health care provider will order computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. A special x-ray of the blood vessels in the brain called angiography may be done if surgery is necessary.
Some people with small, slow-growing meningiomas and no symptoms need no treatment but will be checked regularly with CT or MRI to monitor the growth of the tumor. Otherwise, treatment is surgery. After the tumor is removed, it will be examined to see whether it’s cancerous. If it is cancer, more treatment with radiation may be used. In some cases, non-invasive radiosurgery (focused radiation [gamma knife]) may be used to treat deep tumors that are hard to reach surgically. For seizures before or after surgery, antiseizure medicine may be taken to prevent more seizures.
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