Meningiomas are tumors which arise from meninges which are the membrane surrounding the brain & spinal cord. However, most meningiomas that occur are benign (noncancerous), but rarely some meningiomas may also be malignant (cancerous). Moreover, some meningiomas are also qualified as atypical, which means that they are neither malignant nor benign, but something in between the two. Meningiomas are most commonly found to occur among older women, but can also occur among males in all age groups including childhood. Nevertheless, most meningiomas do not always need immediate treatment. Since they cause no significant signs & symptoms, meningiomas may be monitored over time.
Signs & Symptoms of Meningiomas
Signs & symptoms of meningiomas typically start gradually & are found to be very subtle in the beginning. Signs & symptoms include the following, depending upon where inside the brain, or rarely in the spine is the tumor situated.
- Changes in vision, like seeing double or blurred
- Headaches which worsen over time
- Memory loss
- Hearing loss
- Loss of smell
- Weakness in arms or legs
Time to See a Doctor
Although most signs & symptoms of meningioma evolve very slowly, there are times when meningiomas require emergency care as well. Seeking emergency care for meningioma is necessary for the following conditions.
- Sudden changes in vision or memory
- Sudden onset of seizures
It would, therefore, be sensible to make an appointment with the doctor in case people have persistent signs & symptoms of concern like headaches which are found to worsen over time.
Causes for Meningioma Tumors
It is still not clear as to what is it that actually cause meningiomas. However, doctors understand that there is something which alters some cells in meninges, the membrane which forms a protective barrier around brain & spinal cord. This, in turn, makes these cells multiply out of control so as to lead to the formation of a meningioma tumor. Nevertheless, it still remains unknown whether this occurs because of hormones, inheritance of genes, or substances a person is exposed to in the environment or due to a combination of these factors.
Risk Factors Influencing Formation of Meningiomas
Risk factors for meningioma include the following.
- Female Hormones – Since meningiomas are most common in women, it prompts doctors to believe that female hormone may be responsible for their formation.
- Inherited Nervous System Disorder – Neurofibromatosis Type 2 rare disorder is found to increase the risk of developing meningiomas & other types of brain tumors.
- Radiation Treatment – Radiation therapy which involves the application of radiation to the head may increase the risk of formation of meningiomas.
Complications Associated with Meningiomas
Treatment for meningiomas, typically including surgery & radiation therapy are found to cause long-term complications including the following.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Changes in personality
Doctors can help treat some of these complications & refer patients to specialist doctors so as to help them cope with other complications.
Initial Appointment for Meningioma Treatment
People are most likely to begin by seeing a family doctor or a general practitioner for their symptoms of meningioma. When this doctor suspects them of having a brain tumor like meningioma, they may refer the patient to a specialist like a neurologist or a neurosurgeon who can treat such brain disorders. The following information can help patients prepare for their initial appointment for meningioma treatment.
What Meningioma Patients Can Do Prior to Initial Appointment
- Be Aware of Pre-Appointment Restrictions – Patients must make sure to enquire if there is anything they need to do in advance for the initial appointment, like restricting the diet for tests & examinations.
- Write Down Symptoms They are Experiencing – Writing down symptoms will help to explain in detail during the consultation. Symptoms list must include anything which may also seem unrelated to the reason for which this initial appointment is scheduled.
- Note Down Key Personal Information – Key personal information should also include any major stress and/or recent changes in life.
- Make a List of All Medications – This list should include all supplements, vitamins & medications which the patient is currently taking.
- Take Along a Friend or Family Member – Quite often it is difficult for the patient to absorb & remember all information provided by the doctor during an initial appointment. A friend or family member who will accompany the patient can help remember something which the patient would have otherwise missed.
- Write Down Questions to Ask the Specialist Doctor – Preparing a list of questions which patients wants to ask the doctor will help in making the most of the limited time available during initial appointment.
Basic Questions Patients Can Ask Doctors during Initial Appointment for Meningioma
- Is my meningioma cancerous in nature?
- What size is my meningioma? Is it large?
- Is my meningioma still growing? How quick is the growth?
- Which treatments would you recommend for my meningioma?
- Will I need treatment now, or would it be better to take a wait & see approach?
- What potential complications are associated with each treatment you recommend?
- Are there any long-term complications that I should know about?
- Do you advise I also seek a second opinion? Would you recommend another doctor of hospital facility which has experience in the treatment of meningiomas?
- Can you provide me with any brochures or other printed materials which I can take with me?
- Which websites would you recommend I refer to?
- Will I need to make a decision about treatment right away? How long can I wait to make up my mind?
Meningioma patients should also not hesitate to ask any number of other questions that come to their mind.
Tests & Diagnosis for Meningiomas
Meningiomas may be detected through the following imaging tests.
- CT Scan (Computerized Tomography) – CT scans typically take X-rays which create slice-like cross-sectional images of brain & head. These images are then combined together by computers so as to create a full picture of the patient’s brain. Quite often an iodine-based dye is also used in order to augment the picture.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – Magnetic field & radio waves are used in MRI imaging studies so as to create cross-sectional images of structures within the brain. MRI scans effectively provide more detailed pictures of meningiomas & the brain.
Treatments & Drugs for Meningiomas
Treatments which patients receive for meningiomas depend upon many factors including the location of the tumor, the size of meningioma & how aggressive it is believed to be. While deciding on the course of treatment, doctors will also consider the patient’s overall health factor & the goal of treatment.
- Wait & Watch Approach – Immediate treatment is not always necessary for every patient with meningioma. Small & slow-growing meningiomas which are not causing any signs or symptoms may not even require any treatment. However, patients planning not to undergo any treatment for meningiomas must have their brains periodically scanned so as to evaluate the meningioma & look out for any signs that it is growing. Doctors will eventually determine if at all their meningioma is growing & whether it needs to be treated, from among the several treatment options which are available.
- Surgical Intervention for Meningioma – Doctors often recommend surgery when meningiomas cause signs & symptoms or show signs that they are growing. Surgeons would for this purpose involve surgical intervention so as to completely remove the meningioma. However, since meningiomas often occur near several delicate structures within the brain or spinal cord, it is not always possible to surgically remove the entire tumor. In such cases, surgeons will only remove as much meningioma as is conveniently possible.
Type of treatment required after surgery will depend upon several factors including the ones mentioned below.
- When No Visible Tumor is Remaining – In this type of cases no further treatment is generally required. However, these meningioma patients will need to undergo periodic follow-up scans.
- When Tumor is Benign & Only a Small Portion is Remaining – Doctors may recommend periodic follow-up scans only in such cases. However, in some of these cases, small leftover tumors are treated with a type of radiation treatment known as stereotactic radiosurgery.
- When Tumor is Atypical or Malignant – Patients will most likely require radiation therapy in such meningioma cases following surgery. Surgery also poses risks which include infection & bleeding. Specific risks associated with surgery for cancerous meningioma will, however, depend upon where it is located. Like for instance, surgical intervention so as to remove meningioma which occurs around the optic nerve may lead to loss of vision. Therefore, patients must make it a point to ask the surgeon about specific risks which are associated with their atypical or malignant meningioma surgical operation
- Radiation Therapy – Doctors may often recommend radiation therapy following surgery for meningiomas which could not be completely removed. The goal of radiation therapy in such instances is to destroy the remaining meningioma cells & thereby reduce the chance that meningioma may recur. Radiation therapy utilizes a large machine to aim high-power energy beams at tumor cells. Advances in radiation therapy eventually increase accuracy & the dose of radiation which is applied to the meningioma tumor while reducing the prospect of radiation affecting the surrounding healthy tissue. Such advanced radiation treatments include SRT or Fractionated Stereotactic Radiotherapy & IMRT or Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy. Proton beam radiation may also be an option, but whether this application is superior to standard radiation procedures is still unclear.
- Radiosurgery – This is also a form of radiation treatment which is designed to aim several beams of powerful radiation at precise points. Contrary to the name given, radiosurgery is not any type of surgical intervention involving incisions or scalpels. Radiosurgery is typically performed as an outpatient procedure & completes within a few hours of time. Radiosurgery is an ideal option for patients whose meningiomas cannot be removed with conventional surgery or for meningiomas which recur despite treatments.
- Fractionated Radiation – Ideal treatment procedure for meningioma tumors which are too large for radiosurgery or for those located in areas like near the optic nerve which cannot tolerate the high intensity of radiosurgery. Fractionated radiation is a possible option which involves delivering radiation in small fractions over a period of time. Like for example, this type of approach may require one treatment session each day for 30 days.
- Drugs – Ideal for people with meningiomas which recur or do not effectively respond to surgical intervention or radiation. Doctors are nowadays trying a different system of treatments since chemotherapy has not proved to be valuable. Fortunately, drugs like hydroxyurea (Hydrea, Droxia) are sometimes used with success. Other drugs which are also being testes include those which prevent the release of growth hormones like somatostatin analogs. Recently, medications which inhibit meningioma tumor’s ability to recruit blood vessels, called angiogenesis inhibitors have shown promising results. This data, however, is primary in nature & requires more study so as to prove useful.
- Alternative Medicine – Although alternative medicine treatments cannot effectively treat meningioma, some of them may, however, provide relief from side effects of treatment or help patients cope with the stress of having meningiomas. Alternative medicine therapies which can be helpful in these conditions include the following. Meningioma patients must, however, discuss these options with their doctor.
- Relaxation Exercises
- Music Therapy
Coping & Support for Meningioma Patients
It can be an overwhelming feeling when people are diagnosed with a meningioma. Life can turn upside down with visits to doctors & surgeons in preparation for treatment as patients come to terms with being diagnosed with meningioma. It would, therefore, be helpful for meningioma patients to undertake the following steps while facing such a situation.
- Learn Everything About Meningiomas – Patients should ask their healthcare team as to where they can obtain more information regarding meningiomas & it’s treatment options. They should also visit the local library & check with the librarian in order to help track down reliable sources providing more information including content available online. Meningioma patients should also write down questions so as to remember asking their doctors during the next appointment. More they know about their condition, will prepare them better so as to make informed decisions about their treatment.
- Build a Supporting Network – Friends & family supporting meningioma patients can be valuable. Patients may find it helpful to have someone to talk to about their condition & emotions as well. Other people who may provide such valuable support can include psychologists & social workers. Meningioma patients must, therefore, ask their doctors for referral in case they feel that they need someone else to talk to. Patients can also talk to a spiritual leader, rabbi or pastor. Moreover, other people living with meningiomas can also offer a unique perspective. Therefore, meningioma patients should consider joining some support groups, whether it is available in their community or on the internet. It will also be possible to check with the healthcare team about the availability of meningioma or brain tumor support groups in the area.
- Taking Care – Meningioma patients should try to stay healthy during treatment by taking all possible care. Eating a diet rich in fruits & vegetables along with daily moderate exercise which doctors permit would be extremely helpful in enduring this condition. They should also get enough sleep so that they wake up feeling rested. It would also be sensible that meningioma patients reduce stress in their lives by focusing on what is most important to them. Although these measures may not cure meningioma, but it will surely help them feel better while they recover from surgery or prove extremely helpful while they are coping during radiation therapy.
Affordable Treatment for Meningiomas in India
Basically, a type of slow-growing tumor which forms in thin layers of tissue protecting & covering the brain & spinal cord, there is a lot of support & care required for people with meningioma, before, during & following the recommended treatment. All these efforts are not just emotionally taxing but are also economically expensive. With costs of healthcare rising beyond reach especially in the developed western world, treatment options for brain tumors like meningioma can often be beyond the reach of the common man. India, which has fast emerged as a leading global medical tourism destination is an excellent solution to both health & financial problems. Featuring an extensive & modern healthcare infrastructure composed of a wide pool of efficient doctors & surgeons, internationally accredited hospitals & English speaking nurses & skilled professionals, medical procedures in India are not just reasonably affordable but of high quality as well. IndianMedTrip is one of the fastest growing global healthcare tourism companies in the world which is based in South Asia & providing excellent low-cost medical solutions to people from all around the world. IndianMedTrip services which begin with the first conversation on telephone move on to identifying the right doctor & ideal hospital for your treatment. Other seamless services which follow the initial conversation include assisting in obtaining medical visas, a warm reception at the airport on arrival, convenient local travel & comfortable accommodation, scheduled appointments with doctors & medical procedures without any waiting period, exotic recuperation holiday option, follow-up evaluation checks before heading back home.