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Meningioma are typically benign tumors that originate in the cells and membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The name of the tumor is derived from the classification name these cells are given by the medical community, meninges. Note that they are not cancerous or malignant tumors but rather benign tumors. However, they cause medical problems from related issues.
The meninges covering the brain and spinal cord exists in three distinct layers. It is the middle layer of the meninges where these tumors originate, grow, and attach themselves to the outermost layer by a tail of tissue.
These tumors account for a significant percentage (up to 25%) of all brain and spinal cord tumors. The medical categories of these tumors are exhaustive but in general, they are put into one of three categories, benign, atypical, and malignant with benign tumors being 90% of all meningiomas. The medical impact of the tumors is to surrounding tissues and does not present itself until the tumor has grown large enough to create problems. This is primarily because the tumor grows so slowly and the body adjusts to the condition up until the time that cranial pressure has increased beyond the point of tolerance or blood veins become compressed and blocked. The other two forms of meningiomas are much more aggressive and symptomatic at an early stage because their growth is rapid and invasive. Spinal meningiomas are rare (less than 10%) and grow mostly on the lower spine between the spinal cord and abdomen. They are usually benign.
The part of the population most at risk for developing meningiomas are women from middle age to their older years with the preponderance of occurrences happening in women from age 60 to 70. These meningiomas are usually benign. Men, on the other hand, when they do form a meningioma, it is usually atypical or malignant. Children rarely suffer from a meningioma.
There is no single causal factor that has been identified but the risk factors are more identifiable. Exposure to radiation (x-ray’s and MRI’s) has been shown to be a risk factor. There is also a family history, genetic factor that commonly leads to meningioma formation.
The symptoms, if they do ever present, always seem to arise from a suspected unrelated illness. Typically, headaches, seizures, dizziness, problems with memory and unexplained behavioral modifications are what lead to an eventual diagnosis of meningioma. Diagnosis is made using the standard diagnostic tools and procedures of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer tomography (CT). CT is the use of low-dose x ray’s to generate a picture inside the body.
If a meningioma becomes symptomatic, the usual treatment is surgery to remove it. Otherwise, it is left in place. The prognosis following surgery is good with spinal meningiomas being the most easily treated and removed completely including the tail of tissue connecting it to the outer part of the meninges. Learn more here.
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