Educating yourself about your condition is a powerful way to set your mind at ease during this time. The information below covers many aspects of meningioma, including meningioma treatment options available in the NJ area. This will give you a solid foundation to take into your next conversation with your personal doctor, who can best answer any questions you have about your individual condition.
What is Meningioma?
The meninges are a thin, durable layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. A meningioma is a tumor that forms from this covering and can grow outward or inward, pressing into the brain. Meningioma causes are not well understood, but they may be related to hormones. This could be why they are more common in women than men and tend to occur between ages 30-70.
Most meningiomas are benign. However, this does not mean they are harmless, and they do still have the potential to be aggressive. This is one reason it is important to work with an experienced neurosurgeon in the tri-state area who can recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
Meningioma Treatment Options
No two patients are exactly alike, which is why your treatment plan may be different from the next person’s. Your personal doctor will take many things into consideration, including:
- The size and exact location of your meningioma
- The grade of your meningioma
- Your overall health, including age and complicating health conditions
- Personal treatment desires
Your treatment plan may include a single form of therapy or a combination approach. Meningioma treatment options available in northern NJ are outlined below.
If your meningioma is small and not causing any issues, your doctor may recommend a “watch and wait” approach. This means you will have a regular schedule of follow-up visits which may include monitoring of your symptoms and diagnostic imaging to detect any growth of your tumor. It will be important to attend any doctor’s visits as scheduled so your doctor will be able to diagnose any changes as soon as possible.
Your doctor may recommend surgical removal of all or part of your meningioma, particularly if it is large, in an easily accessible area or if time is of the essence. Surgery takes place in a hospital setting while you are comfortable and asleep. Surgery is typically combined with some form of radiation therapy to ensure all the tumor cells have been eradicated. Without radiation therapy, any remaining cells could regrow into another tumor, requiring retreatment.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Though it may not sound like it, Gamma Knife radiosurgery isn’t surgery at all, but instead an advanced form of radiation therapy available in northern NJ. Treatment takes place in an outpatient setting, which means you do not have to stay overnight. Many patients will only require a single treatment session. However, depending on the size and location of the area being treated, it could take up to five appointments.
During the procedure, nearly 200 individual beams of low-dose radiation are used to treat your meningioma directly. Because the Gamma Knife system is so accurate, your doctor can treat an area as precise as 0.15 mm, sparing healthy surrounding tissues from the radiation effects. This means fewer of the unpleasant side effects typically associated with radiation therapy.
Fractionated radiotherapy is similar to Gamma Knife radiosurgery but requires more sessions over a longer period of time. A typical treatment schedule is five sessions per week for six weeks. However, your treatment plan will be tailored to your individual needs.
Side Effects & Risks
All medical procedures carry related side effects and risks, which your doctor will consider before making treatment recommendations. Generally speaking, meningioma treatment risks and side effects are outlined for you here. However, keep in mind that there may be specific other considerations related to your individual condition that your personal doctor will explain to you.
Risks and side effects of meningioma surgery include:
- Reactions to general anesthesia
- Bleeding and blood clots
- Pain and infection at the incision site
- Seizures and inflammation of the brain (medications are prescribed to prevent this)
- Damage to brain tissues, leading to deficits like muscle weakness or paralysis, visual disturbances and difficulties with speech
Risks and side effects of Gamma Knife radiosurgery for meningioma include:
- Mild headache, nausea and fatigue (typically last 1-2 days, treatable with medication)
- Itching or discomfort for a few days at the head frame pin sites on the scalp
- Delayed swelling of the brain approximately six months after treatment (treatable with medication)
Meningioma Treatment Benefits
There must be benefits to a procedure for your doctor to make a recommendation for treatment. The primary benefit of any meningioma treatment is alleviation of symptoms you are experiencing and preventing further damage. If your meningioma is very aggressive, treatment could even be lifesaving.
There are other benefits specific to Gamma Knife radiosurgery for meningioma, particularly when compared to surgery. For some NJ patients, Gamma Knife radiosurgery will be available as an alternative to traditional surgery. Benefits of Gamma Knife radiosurgery vs. surgery include:
- No surgical or general anesthesia risks
- No overnight hospital stay
- Return to normal activity levels in 1-2 days
- Short, mild recovery
- No incisions, sutures or scarring
- No pain, bleeding or infection at any surgical site
Frequently Asked Questions
I was just diagnosed with a meningioma. What’s next?
Receiving a major medical diagnosis can be overwhelming. You are already educating yourself about your condition, and that’s a great first step. There are resources available to help guide you through this. You are not alone in your diagnosis or your path to recovery.
Do I have to have surgery to treat my meningioma?
Your doctor will make specific treatment recommendations. As discussed above, some patients will not require any treatment at all. However, if your meningioma is very large or aggressive, surgery may be necessary.
How long will I be off work following meningioma treatment?
Your recovery period will be a very individual process, but what you can expect on a broad level is discussed below. Most patients require 8-12 weeks of recovery following surgery, and 1-2 days following Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
How do I find an experienced doctor in the tri-state area to treat my meningioma?
It is important to find the right meningioma treatment center in northern NJ for you. Begin your search here, a resource to help guide you as you begin looking for your treatment home.
Sometimes hearing about the experiences of other patients can ease some of the anxiety you may be feeling right now. Kate Cammarata, a teacher from NJ, shares the story of her diagnosis and treatment to help other patients like you.
Recovery following meningioma treatment is going to be a very personal process. It is important you discuss your recovery with your own doctor so you can know what to expect after your meningioma treatment.
Generally speaking, if you undergo surgery, you will spend about 3 days to a week recovering in the hospital. This will be followed by a period of 8-12 weeks recovering at home. During this time, you will be on activity restrictions to give your body time to heal. Expect to have follow-up visits with your doctor to assess symptom resolution and monitor for any side effects after treatment.
Because it is a minimally invasive procedure, recovery following Gamma Knife radiosurgery is very brief and mild. Most patients are home within a few hours of concluding treatment. Expect to feel tired for a day or two. You may also have a headache and nausea. However, your doctor can prescribe medications to alleviate your symptoms. Patients are typically able to return to normal activities, including work, within 1-2 days of treatment.
Continue Educating Yourself
Taking the time to learn about your condition and the meningioma treatment options available in NJ will help you as you move forward through the process. You’ll find the small effort now will pay off as you progress along your treatment path, allowing you to focus your energy on your recovery. Be sure to discuss the information you have learned here with your personal doctor, who can help answer any lingering questions you may have.