Non-cancerous, slow growing, tumors arising from the sheath covering the brain and spinal cord is called meningioma.
Introduction to Meningioma
Three layers of coverings wrap around the brain and the spinal cord. The outermost layer is the toughest and it is called the dura mater. The middle layer carries blood vessels and it is called the arachnoid mater. The inner most is a soft layer that is practically stuck to the brain and the spinal cord. It is called the pia mater.
A slow growing, mostly non-cancerous tumor, arising out of the arachnoid mater, is called a meningioma. They can form over the brain or the spinal cord. These tumors are soft, fleshy and rubbery to stony masses. They can crumble easily.
Meningiomas can occur without symptoms and they are rarely discovered. If meningioma without symptoms is discovered by chance, the patient is put under periodical observation. A patient is treated for meningioma only when it produces troublesome symptoms.
The following increase the risk of meningioma:
- Radiation exposure
- Dental X-Ray
- Head injury
- Excess body weight
- Neurofibromatosis type-2 (about 50% of the patients with NF-2 develop meningioma)
About 8% of meningiomas can turn cancerous.
Complication due to Meningioma
If a growing meningioma starts to compress adjoining brain tissue or nerve fibers, it can cause complications ranging from severe pain to numbness to loss of control of various bodily functions.
About 8% of meningiomas can turn into cancerous tumor.
Symptoms of Meningioma
Symptoms of meningioma depend on the location and size of the tumor.
If the tumor arises in the sheath wrapping the brain, the following symptoms are seen:
- Gait problems
- Speech disturbances
If the tumor occurs in the sheath wrapping the spinal cord, symptoms vary depending on the region of the spinal cord affected by the tumor. Common symptoms in these patients include:
- Back pain, increased while lying down
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of sensation in one or more parts of the body
- Difficulty moving arms and/legs
- Thinning of the muscles of the hand
- Hip pain
- Pain radiating to the legs
- Tingling or pricking sensation of legs
- Gait problems
- Loss of control over stools
- Loss of bladder control
- Impaired sexual functions
- If the meningioma is sighted in the region of the nape, then the usual symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting.
Diagnosis of Meningioma
The following imaging studies are useful in diagnosing a meningioma:
MRI images are an excellent tool for diagnosing a meningioma. Even small tumors in early stage are seen in an MRI image.
- MR Neurography
MRN is used to visualize the nerves. When a meningioma is located in the sheath covering the spinal cord, an MRN is used to picture how the tumor is interacting with the nerves.
Treatment of Meningioma
Here are the treatment options available for meningiomas:
Medication can’t reduce the size of meningiomas. However, steroidal medications are used to reduce any fluid accumulation that is seen around the tumor. If the tumor happens to pinch on a nerve and cause pain, pain relievers may be used.
Total Microsurgical Resection: The treatment of choice for meningioma is careful removal of tumor, without causing damage to the surrounding nerves, using tiny surgical instruments and microscopes. Go here for more information on Total Microsurgical Resection.
After surgery, in order to prevent recurrence of the tumor in the future, the surgery is followed by radiotherapy.
Till such time a meningioma starts to grow rapidly, or it causes undue pain and discomfort, the patient doesn’t have to be worried. Otherwise, arranging for an immediate surgery is the most prudent thing to do.