Meningioma is a tumor that is often benign. It occurs in the meninges’ arachnoid tissue, that is, the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. According to the National Cancer Institute (NIH), this primary neoplasm is the most common tumor process in the central nervous system.
Due to the high prevalence of this disease (number of people affected if we consider it a brain tumor), it is necessary to recognize all its signs quickly. Therefore, this time we tell you the symptoms and causes of meningioma.
About its distribution
In the first place, we see it essential to put into perspective which population groups are the most susceptible to this tumor process and how it is distributed around the globe. Some epidemiological studies report the following results:
- The prevalence of this disease is 2.8%, according to autopsy analysis. That is, almost 3 out of 100 people will suffer from it at some point in their life.
- It accounted for almost 34% of tumors in the central nervous system between 2002 and 2006 in the United States, confirming its position as the most common nervous tumor process.
- The incidence (the number of new cases in a given period) increases from the sixth and seventh decade of life.
- About 170,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States.
- In general, these tumors are more frequent in women, since the sex ratio is 3: 2 (three women for every two men who suffer from it).
- Most meningiomas are benign, with malignant cases ranging only between 1% and 3%. According to studies, metastasis occurs in less than 1 in 1,000 cases.
As we can see, the typical profile of a person with meningioma is an older woman. Even so, it is not necessary to sound the alarms, because the exposed statistics highlight us that it is not a fatal disease in most cases.
Meningioma: symptoms and causes
According to the National Cancer Institute, different types of meningioma are based on molecular analysis and characteristics. These are as follows:
- First grade: the most common. Tumor cells grow slowly.
- Second degree: it is an atypical tumor process of intermediate severity. There is a higher chance that it will come back after its surgical removal.
- Third degree: malignant anaplastic, that is, cancer. It is a fast-growing tumor.
Various investigations report that the prognosis of first-degree tumors (that is, benign ones) is positive. More than 80% of patients survive five years after detection and treatment.
It is curious to know that small tumors (two centimeters or less) are usually discovered during autopsies since they do not generate clear symptoms. Those that are larger, on the other hand, can manifest themselves in different ways. Some of them are the following:
- Changes in vision
- Loss of hearing or smell.
- Convulsive crisis.
- Increased intracranial pressure leading to headaches.
It is logical to think that depending on the brain area that compresses due to its expansion in the meninges. The symptoms will be different. The University of Navarra Clinic informs us that the signs may appear intermittently over the years in the face of slow growth.
Still, progressive headaches and seizures are the most common. If a patient suffers this type of episode, it is necessary to see a doctor immediately.
According to previously cited sources, it has been detected that this type of tumor process is correlated with certain genetic abnormalities. Still, most of them appear in patients without a family history.
The role of sex hormones in tumor genesis is not yet clear, but research is continuing. The fact that it occurs more in women than in men must be explained in some way. Exposure to ionizing radiation, for its part, especially during childhood, is the only environmental factor known to be of proven risk.
Treatment of meningiomas
It is clear that the removal of the tumor by surgical methods is the first and sometimes the only treatment option. Some studies are also exploring solutions such as radiation therapy, calculating a 15-year survival rate of more than 86%.
In any case, if a residual tumor remains after surgical treatment, the chances of it growing again and causing problems to increase over the years. Each case is unique, so predicting an absolute forecast reliably is very complex.
What to remember about meningioma?
As we have seen in these lines, not all tumor processes are associated with cancer, much less with a high death rate. Despite being a common tumor, meningioma usually presents benign, and the prognosis is positive after its removal.
Because depending on its location, it can be expressed in different ways, presenting a clear guide on when to visit the doctor becomes complex. Of course, the presence of progressive headaches and epileptic seizures makes their presence suspicious, which is why they are a reason for safe consultation.