Receiving a diagnosis of any type of brain tumor, including a meningioma, can be stressful, which is why you should take time to better understand your condition. The more you know about your meningioma and treatment options, the more active part you can play through the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
The information below will help you develop a more in-depth understanding of your meningioma, building on what you may already know. Next, an overview of the different meningioma treatment options will provide an idea of what to expect before, during and after each treatment, and how the treatments differ.
At this point, it is worth noting the importance of getting a second opinion and speaking with a specialized neurosurgeon following a meningioma diagnosis. These tumors can vary in size and aggressiveness, and they need to be managed by a specialist with the knowledge and experience to provide the care best suited to your individual needs.
About Your Meningioma
A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges, a delicate layer that covers the entire brain and spinal cord. These tumors vary in size and aggressiveness, which is why seeking out an experienced neurosurgeon in the tristate area is important. Although the tumors are benign in almost 99 percent of cases, they do have the potential to grow quickly and invade other tissues; therefore, meningiomas require immediate evaluation.
Meningiomas occur twice as frequently in women as in men, leading experts to believe that female hormones may be a contributing factor. These tumors tend to occur during middle age, but they can develop in anyone and in different stages of life. Oftentimes, they may be small and undetected, sometimes only found during imaging procedures for other reasons.
A meningioma is classified by its aggressiveness into Grade I, II and III, with Grade III being the most aggressive form. To determine the grade of your meningioma, a neurosurgeon must take a biopsy, or small section of the tumor, and send it to a specialist called a pathologist. Once the pathologist grades your tumor, your doctor can recommend a treatment path based on your individual condition.
Your Meningioma Treatment Options
Once your diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will consider the following meningioma treatment options to determine which is most appropriate for your situation. Since meningiomas can vary and every patient has personal health factors to take into consideration, your treatment may include one of the following treatments or a combination approach.
Watch and Wait
If your meningioma is small and asymptomatic, your doctor may recommend a schedule of follow-up appointments and imaging to monitor its growth. In this case, it is extremely important that you adhere to the schedule and attend any appointments, since your meningioma does have the potential to grow and/or change grades, necessitating treatment.
Some patients will benefit from surgical resection, or removal, of all or part of their meningioma. This is may be the case if your meningioma is particularly large, or if it is spreading quickly and time is of the essence, as radiation therapies can take time. If your doctor recommends surgery, you will need to follow it up with some form of radiation therapy; follow-up will ensure that all tumor cells have been destroyed, preventing tumor regrowth.
Meningioma surgery takes place in a hospital setting while you are asleep, and you will typically spend about a week recovering in the hospital following the procedure. Most patients spend 4-8 weeks recovering at home before having activity restrictions lifted and being cleared to return to work, but this will vary depending on each individual case. This is to give the body ample time to heal and recover from the procedure.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy that allows your doctor to target a very specific area. Your doctor can use it as a primary treatment or following surgery to effectively destroy tumor cells while sparing the healthy surrounding tissues. As a result, patients who undergo Gamma Knife experience fewer of the unpleasant side effects associated with radiation therapy and none of the risks that accompany surgery and general anesthesia.
If your doctor recommends Gamma Knife for your meningioma, you will be awake during the entire procedure and will go home the same day. The procedure itself typically takes 15-60 minutes, depending on your individual tumor, and many patients only undergo a single treatment session. You will be able to resume your daily activities and return to work within a day or two.
You may feel a little tired, nauseous or have a headache for the first few days, but your doctor can prescribe medication to make you feel more comfortable. Some patients will need to return for additional treatment sessions, but typically no more than five.
Fractionated radiotherapy is similar to Gamma Knife but delivers lower doses over more sessions, typically requiring five treatments a week for six weeks. Your doctor will be able to tell you the number of treatments your specific case will require.
Find the Right Specialist for You
As you can see, meningiomas can range from benign and undetected to aggressive and requiring management. It is important to receive a second opinion following your diagnosis and to discuss your meningioma treatment options with someone who has the experience to make proper recommendations for your treatment and follow-up. Taking a little extra time to learn about your condition will help you search out the right neurosurgeon in NJ with the ability to provide you the care you need.
“They cared about me not as just a patient, but as a person.” - Kate Cammarata