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Meningioma Information

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Tumors occur when normal, healthy cells mutate and then grow uncontrollably. Tumors are classified as either malignant or benign, depending on their growth patterns. A malignant tumor, also known as a cancerous tumor, is one that can spread to other parts of the body; a benign tumor will not spread.

Tumors can start anywhere on the body, including the brain and spinal column “ also known as the central nervous system. Of all the types of tumors that start in the central nervous system, meningiomas account for more than 35 percent.

What is a meningioma?

In medical terminology the suffix -oma means growth, or tumor; and the prefix refers to the type of cells that make up the tumor. For example, a lipoma is a tumor made of fat cells, while a melanoma is made of melanin cells. In the case of a meningioma, the cells come from the meninges “ the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Meningiomas are fairly slow-growing, and roughly 90 percent are considered benign. The meninges has three layers “ the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and the pia mater “ and a meningioma can occur in any one of these layers. While these tumors don't normally spread, they can occur in multiple areas around the brain and spinal cord.

Although most meningiomas are benign, they can still be dangerous and even life-threatening. Depending on where they grow, and how big they become, they can press against parts of the brain and spinal cord, and disrupt vital functions. If there are several tumors, they can disrupt multiple functions throughout the body.

Meningioma Causes.

Meningiomas are more common in women between the ages of 40 and 70; however, men can also be affected. On average, the ratio of women to men is 3:1 for meningiomas of the brain, and 6:1 for meningiomas in the spinal cord. Mengiomas are also more common in people of African descent, and in people with neurofibromatosis type 2. Additionally, people who have been exposed to high doses of radiation are also at greater risk.

Meningioma Symptoms.

Symptoms vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. If the tumor is small enough, the patient could be completely asymptomatic. Larger tumor could cause seizures, headaches. Patients could also experience several neurological effects including:

·  Memory loss;

·  Muscle weakness;

·  Vision loss;

·  Balance and equilibrium problems; and,

·  Behavioral changes.

Meningioma Treatments.

The four most common types of meningioma treatments are observation, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The type of treatment the patient receives depends on several factors including:

·  The size and location of the tumor;

·  The patient's symptoms, and;

·  The patient's age and health status.

Observation

If the tumor is small, if the patient is asymptomatic, or if the patient's health would make treatment dangerous, the doctor may opt to observe the patient's condition. During observation the doctor will monitor the patient's condition and the growth of the tumor. If the patient has any symptoms, he may also prescribe medications and therapy. If the patient's condition worsens, he may recommend more aggressive treatments.

Surgery

Meningioma surgery involves removing the tumor and some of the surrounding meninges. Surgery is the most common treatment, because it completely removes the tumor. In the past, meningioma surgery involved removing part of the skull to access the tumor; certain tumors, like those at the base of the skull, are very difficult to access and remove. Today doctors are constantly developing new, minimally-invasive techniques that avoid removing part of the skull and make it easier to access difficult tumors.

Radiation

There are several radiation procedures available to patients with meningiomas. These treatments are usually reserved for patients with aggressive tumors, or the 10 percent of patients with malignant meningiomas. Radiation can be used alone or in conjunction with surgery. The different types of radiation include:

·  Internal Radiation Therapy, where the doctor inserts radioactive pellets or rods into, or near, the tumor site;

·  External Beam Radiation, where the doctor directs a beam of radiation onto the skull to treat the tumor. Conventional beam radiation directs radiation at the entire head or spinal cord. Intensity modulated radiation therapy, three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, and stereotactic radiosurgery all use varying degrees of targeting to hit the tumor, without involving the healthy surrounding tissue. Some radiation therapy uses protons to destroy tumor cells.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop destroy the tumor or, at least, stop it from growing. Like radiation, doctors might use chemotherapy in conjunction with surgery to treat aggressive tumors.