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Meningioma

A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges — the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas are noncancerous (benign), though rarely a meningioma may be cancerous (malignant). Some meningiomas are classified as atypical, meaning they're neither benign nor malignant but, rather, something in between.

Meningiomas occur most commonly in older women. But a meningioma can occur in males and at any age, including childhood.

A meningioma doesn't always require immediate treatment. A meningioma that causes no significant signs and symptoms may be monitored over time.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Signs and symptoms of a meningioma typically begin gradually and may be very subtle at first. Depending on where in the brain or, rarely, spine the tumor is situated, signs and symptoms may include:

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

When to see a doctor

Most signs and symptoms of a meningioma evolve slowly, but sometimes a meningioma requires emergency care.

Seek emergency care if you have:

  • Sudden onset of seizures
  • Sudden changes in your vision or memory

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that concern you, such as headaches that worsen over time.

It isn't clear what causes a meningioma. Doctors know that something alters some cells in your meninges — the membranes that form a protective barrier around your brain and spinal cord — 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, hormones or a combination of these factors remains unknown.

Risk factors for a meningioma include:

  • Radiation treatment. Radiation therapy that involves radiation to the head may increase the risk of a meningioma.
  • Female hormones. Meningiomas are more common in women, leading doctors to believe that female hormones may play a role.
  • An inherited nervous system disorder. The rare disorder neurofibromatosis type 2 increases the risk of meningioma and other brain tumors.

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.

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