A meningioma is a complex type of brain tumor that develops from the layers of membrane that cover the brain and spinal cord. This may sound scary, and while they are certainly serious, this is preferred to a tumor that arises from the brain tissue itself. In fact, a meningioma is the most common type of brain tumor, and they are typically highly treatable. Below, we take a closer look at this type of tumor and explain how we treat them.
Meningiomas account for roughly 30 percent of newly diagnosed brain tumors in the U.S., and about 90 percent of meningiomas are benign, meaning they aren’t likely to spread to another area of the body. They also tend to grow slowly, so while they aren’t always easy to diagnose at the outset, they oftentimes aren’t as problematic as their quicker-growing counterparts.
While they grow slowly, they may continue to grow very large, which can crowd or compress key structures in the skull. This excess pressure can lead to symptoms such as:
Unlike many other health conditions where conservative care is the preferred method of treatment before moving towards surgery, that typically isn’t the case with a meningioma. However, in instances where the meningioma is caught by accident during an imaging test for an unrelated issue, the doctor may recommend watchful waiting for small growths that are benign and asymptomatic. This may involve getting a brain scan every couple of months to determine if and when intervention is necessary.
If the meningioma is threatening critical nerves or blood vessels, or it’s simply getting large, then the standard course of surgery will be recommended. There are a couple different ways to access and remove a meningioma, but the most common is with a craniotomy procedure. This involves removing a portion of the skull and excising the tumor before repairing the skull opening at the conclusion of the procedure. By removing the entire tumor, there is a greatly reduced likelihood of it returning.
In some instances, the entire tumor cannot be safely removed. When this happens, the surgeon will remove as much of the meningioma as possible. Afterwards, radiation therapy is often recommended to treat the remainder of the tumor. Radiation treatment isn’t typically recommended as a primary course of treatment, as it isn’t as effective as surgery and can make future operations more difficult.
For more information about meningiomas, or for answers to questions about health conditions of the brain, reach out to Dr. Chang and his team today.