What is a Meningioma?
- A brain tumour that forms in the meninges is called a meningioma.
- The meninges are the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
- Whilst this type of tumour is most commonly found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, they can also be found in any part of the brain or spinal cord.
- Meningiomas are mostly benign and are rarely malignant (that is, not cancerous.)
- Meningiomas are most commonly found in middle-aged adults and elderly people.
- They are generally slow-growing.
What causes it?
The causes of meningiomas is unknown. This is the case with lots of brain tumours.
What are the Symptoms?
Meningiomas can occur in different parts of the brain and the spinal cord so this will determine the type of symptoms that a person may experience.
The most common types of symptoms are caused by an increased pressure in the skull (raised intracranial pressure) which can be attributed to:
- A blockage in the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces of the brain), which can lead to a build up of the protective fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord which is known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
- Increased pressure can also be caused by swelling surrounding the tumour itself.
Increased pressure in the skull can cause the following symptoms:
- Visual problems
- Epileptic fits
- Slurred speech- Problems with speech and slurring or muddling of words can occur when the left side of the brain is affected.
- Changes in personality and behaviour- TThis can be characteristic of a tumour in the frontal lobe of the brain.
- Problems with coordination and memory loss- This can be a sign of a tumour in the temporal lobe of the brain.
- Issues with writing and similar activities- If the parietal lobe of the brain is affected, problems with writing and other activities can occur.
Remember: If you have any of these symptoms you should have them checked by your doctor - but remember, they are common to illnesses other than a meningioma.
How is it diagnosed?
After visiting a GP a referral may be made to a hospital for some tests. These may include:
- Neurological examination
- CT scan
If the results of the test show the presence of a meningioma, a referral will be made to a doctor who specialises in the treatment of diseases of the brain, (called a neurologist), possibly a neurosurgeon (a brain surgeon) and an oncologist (cancer doctor).
How are Meningiomas treated?
A team of doctors and other staff at the hospital will plan treatment. It will depend on the size of the tumour and where it is. Treatment may be coordinated by an oncologist, a neurosurgeon and a radiologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiation).
Sometimes there is an excess build up of pressure in the skull which needs to be reduced before treatment can commence. In this case, steroids may be given to decrease swelling around the tumour.
If the excess pressure is due to a build up of cerebrospinal, a shunt (small tube) may be inserted to drain excess fluid. This is done under general anaesthetic.
Before commencing treatment, doctors will discuss the treatment in detail and provide information on the procedures and the possible risks involved.
Treatment may involve:
Surgery for a meningioma
Surgery is the preferred type of treatment for a meningioma as often the whole tumour can be removed without further treatment.
However if surgery is not possible due to the position of the tumour, other treatment options are discussed.
Radiotherapy for a meningioma
Radiotherapy may be used as the sole treatment for a meningioma if surgery is not possible.
It may also be used after surgery for malignant meningioma’s to reduce chances of the tumour coming back.
The third common instance where radiotherapy is used as treatment is when a benign menigioma can only be partially removed with surgery.
Chemotherapy for meningioma
Meningiomas are rarely treated using chemotherapy as surgery and radiotherapy are currently the most effective methods of treatment.