A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges — the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas occur most commonly in women. Most people who develop a meningioma are adults. But a meningioma can occur at any age, including childhood.
A meningioma doesn’t always require immediate treatment. A small meningioma that causes no significant signs and symptoms may be monitored over time for signs of growth. A meningioma that never grows may never require treatment.

Meningioma symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a meningioma typically begin gradually and may be very subtle at first. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Changes in vision, such as seeing double or blurriness
  • Headaches that worsen with time
  • Hearing loss
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in your arms or legs

Meningioma causes

Meningiomas occur in the cells that make up the meninges — the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord, forming a protective barrier. It isn’t clear what causes a meningioma to form.
Doctors know that something alters some cells in your meninges to make them multiply out of control, leading to a meningioma tumor. But whether this occurs because of genes you inherit, things you’re exposed to in your environment or a combination of both remains unknown.

Meningioma diagnosis

meningioma may be detected on an imaging test, such as:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • X-ray

Meningioma treatment

The treatment for a meningioma depends on many factors, including the size of your meningioma, where it’s located and how aggressive it’s believed to be. Your doctor will also take into consideration your overall health and your goals for treatment.

Immediate treatment isn’t necessary for everyone with a meningioma. A small, slow-growing meningioma that isn’t causing signs or symptoms may not require treatment. If you choose not to undergo treatment for your meningioma, you’ll likely have brain scans periodically to evaluate your meningioma and look for signs that it’s growing. Your doctor creates a personalized follow-up schedule for you. For instance, you might undergo brain scans every few months at first and then have scans done annually. If at any time your doctor determines your meningioma is growing and needs to be treated, you have several treatment options.

If your meningioma causes signs and symptoms or shows signs that it’s growing, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgeons work to remove the meningioma completely. But because a meningioma may occur near many delicate structures, such as your brain, eyes and spinal cord, it isn’t always possible to remove the entire tumor. In those cases, surgeons remove as much of the meningioma as possible.

Surgery may carry a chance of significant risks, including infection and bleeding. The specific risks of your surgery will depend on where your meningioma is located. For instance, surgery to remove a meningioma that occurs around the optic nerve can lead to vision loss. Ask your surgeon about the specific risks of your surgery.

If your meningioma can’t be completely removed, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy following surgery. The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy any remaining meningioma cells and reduce the chance that your meningioma may recur. Radiation therapy uses a large machine to aim high-powered energy beams at the tumor cells.

Radiosurgery is a specific type of radiation treatment that aims several beams of powerful radiation at a very precise point. Contrary to its name, radiosurgery doesn’t involve scalpels or incisions. Radiosurgery may be an option for people with meningiomas that can’t be removed with conventional surgery or for meningiomas that recur despite treatment.

A meningioma and its treatment, typically surgery and radiation therapy, can cause long-term complications, including:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures

Your doctor can treat some complications and refer you to specialists to help you cope with other complications.