Brain tumors can be classified into two broad categories: malignant and benign. The former refers to a tumor made of cancer cells, and it can affect nearby tissues, while the latter is noncancerous and will not affect other nearby tissues or spread to other areas of the body. A benign tumor is not fatal as the other variant. One of the commonly known benign tumors is meningioma. It is a tumor that grows from the meninges, the protective membrane covering the brain and spinal cord.
Most meningiomas grow very slowly, often over many years, without causing symptoms. But sometimes, their effects on nearby brain tissue, nerves, or vessels may cause severe disability. Studies have shown that almost 40 percent of brain tumors are benign. Hence staying informed about what are the symptoms and treatment available for meningiomas is important. As June 8 marks the commemoration of World Brain Tumor Day, one needs to be aware of the most found benign tumor: meningiomas.
Meningiomas are hard to detect during the early stages. However, there are a few guiding symptoms that neurosurgeons follow to identify meningiomas tumors in the brain. Depending on where in the brain or, rarely, spine the tumor is situated, signs and symptoms may include:
Often meningiomas are detected in an MRI or CT scan performed for another reason. A person may have a meningiomas tumor and still not exhibit any of these symptoms.
The root cause for meningiomas is still not discovered. However, neurosurgeons have found that an alteration in chromosome 22, involved in tumor suppression, is the most common abnormality in meningiomas. People with a genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis type 2(NF2) are more likely to develop meningiomas. With the growing technological advancements in medical sciences, meningiomas can be treated effectively. Some therapies help in the diagnosis and treatment of benign tumors.
-by Dr Satish Satyanarayana, Additional Director - Department of Neurosurgery, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru.