Meningioma is a rare tumor that occurs on the membranes of the brain or spinal cord. Meninges are the name of the membrane that envelops the brain and rarely it may develop tumor. Most of the time these tumors are benign (harmless) and in rare cases they become malignant (cancer causing). Meningioma is common on elderly women but sometimes it can develop in males also.
Initially there may not be any signs of meningioma. Not all the people with this disease will have symptoms. Some of the symptoms of meningioma are blurred vision, headache (moderate to severe), loss of memory, loss of hearing and seizures. This tumor may develop on the membranes of your brain or spine and the symptoms vary accordingly. If there is any sudden change in your vision or memory or if you have sudden seizure then you need to visit your doctor.
Exact cause of meningioma is not known. It is believed to occur due to sudden development and growth of cells around the meninges which would multiply in good number causing tumor like growth. It can develop due to genetic or environmental factor.
Risk Factors :
People who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy are prone to develop meningioma. Increased secretion of female hormone increases the risk of meningioma. Formation of neurofibromatosis (a rare type of neuro disorder) increases the risk of developing meningioma.
As such the disease does not cause any complications but the radiation or chemotherapy given for treating meningioma may cause side effects like loss of memory, confusion of thoughts, mood swings, change in personality and seizures.
Meningioma can be diagnosed by imaging tests like X-ray, CT scan or MRI scanning. Cross section images of the brain are studied after applying magnetic waves and radio waves on the brain.
No treatment is necessary if there are no symptoms. Small sized tumor inside the membranes of your brain does not cause any trouble. Your doctor will consider your age, overall health and the intensity of the tumor before giving any treatment. He will monitor the size of tumor regularly to check if it has progressed in size. He may order of brain scan every month or so to notice any significant changes.
Meningioma can be removed completely by surgery but it involves many complications if the skull or spine has to be opened up. Since the brain or spine contains many delicate nerves and structures it may not be possible to remove the entire tumor.
The person has to follow the instructions of the doctor after surgery for further treatment. In case the tumor is benign then it is enough if you make regular checkups and scans with your doctor. In case if the tumor is malignant you need to undergo radiation therapy after surgery. The surgery inside the brain involves enough risk and has to be considered in advance.
Radiation Therapy :
Radiation waves are directly applied on the tumor area to destroy them completely. Large machine is used for sending high powered ray of energy into your head for killing those cells. Now advanced methods of radiotherapy like SRT (Sterotactic radiotherapy) and IMRT are used. Radiosurgery is yet another method in which the high powered radiation waves are sent into the head or affected portion of the spine. For destroying large sized tumors, fractionated radiation therapy is used in which radiation is administered in fractioned doses.
Chemotherapy is given in the form of suitable drugs like Droxia or Hydrea and for most of the patients combination of radio-therapy is given along with medication. For mild form of meningiomas you can try acupuncture and some of the alternate therapies like meditation and relaxation techniques.
Coping Skills :
It may be shocking for anyone if he/she is diagnosed with meningioma. But you have to accept the truth and follow the advice of your doctor. It will be beneficial for you to learn everything about this disease. Also you can join a support group to share your feelings. Eat a balanced diet and do regular exercises to stay active.