Understanding Your Condition
Because there are different types of meningioma tumors, learning more about them can help you better understand your own condition. Whether you are still awaiting a diagnosis or already have a treatment plan in place, you will find the following review of different types of meningioma tumors beneficial. This can give you a good starting point for your next conversation with your personal doctor.
Meningioma Tumors in General
Your brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS) and are covered by a triple-layered membrane called the meninges. A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the meninges or dura. A meningioma can grow outward from the brain or inward, and they can be located anywhere along the CNS. Meningioma tumors typically arise in patients between 30 and 70 years old, and they make up 34% of primary brain tumors in adults.
There are different types of meningioma tumors. Meningioma tumors range from grade I to grade III, based on the aggressiveness of the tumor. Diagnosing meningioma tumors by grade requires a biopsy and report by a pathologist, who examines the cells under a microscope to analyze the tumor’s characteristics.
Grade I Meningioma Tumors
The majority of meningioma tumors are grade I, which means they are benign and grow very slowly. These tumors can affect anyone but are more common in women than men.
How They Form
As with all meningiomas, a grade I meningioma tumor develops from the meninges. These tumors grow very slowly and do not invade into the brain. However, they can grow large enough to press on adjacent structures over time.
Many people will not experience any symptoms from a grade I meningioma because it never grows large enough to impact any structures. However, some patients will experience general symptoms like headaches, muscle weakness, nausea and neurological deficits.
Some grade I meningiomas are found when performing tests for another condition. This is called an incidental finding. If your doctor suspects you have a grade I meningioma, diagnostic imaging results and a biopsy will confirm your diagnosis.
Many patients with grade I meningiomas will not need immediate treatment. Instead, your doctor may recommend a “watch and wait” approach, with follow-up imaging to monitor your meningioma tumor for growth. However, your doctor may recommend surgery or Gamma Knife radiosurgery to relieve or prevent symptoms if your tumor is large enough to impact other structures.
Grade II Meningioma Tumors
A grade II meningioma tumor is still benign but grows quicker than a grade I tumor. These tumors are also more common in women than men and require more immediate treatment.
How They Form
Grade II meningioma tumors arise from the same cells as grade I, but the cells begin to change and look different under a microscope. These tumors are benign and do not spread throughout the body. But, they can invade nearby tissues, pressing into the brain, nerves and blood vessels, leading to damage.
Symptoms are more common with grade II meningiomas than grade I, and they may be more severe. These can include headaches, fatigue, nausea, changes in vision or hearing, muscle weakness and personality changes.
As with other types of meningioma tumors, your doctor will use your exam, diagnostic imaging and biopsy results to diagnose your grade II meningioma. With grade II meningioma, certain cell characteristics and/or invasion of tissues are seen under a microscope.
Because a grade II meningioma is more aggressive, it likewise requires more aggressive treatment. If your doctor recommends surgical removal of all or part of your tumor, it may be followed by radiation therapy to ensure no tumor cells remain. Some patients who cannot undergo surgery may receive radiation therapy alone. One such treatment is Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
Grade III Meningioma Tumors
Grade III meningioma tumors are malignant and are no longer considered benign. Interestingly, these tumors are more frequent in men than women.
How They Form
A grade III meningioma still arises from the meninges. However, these meningioma tumors grow more quickly, invade local tissue and can spread throughout the body. Only 2-3% of meningiomas are grade III, but these tumors require aggressive treatment and retreatment to prevent reoccurrence.
Because grade III meningiomas can grow so fast, they have the greatest potential to damage adjacent tissues and cause side effects. These include the common meningioma symptoms of headaches, fatigue, nausea, muscle weakness, changes to hearing and vision, personality effects and seizures.
These tumors are diagnosed using a combination of imaging and biopsy, as with other meningioma tumors. If a pathologist detects certain characteristics under a microscope, then your tumor will be classified as grade III.
Your doctor will likely recommend surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy (like Gamma Knife radiosurgery) to eliminate any remaining cells. A grade III meningioma can spread into delicate brain tissue, making it difficult to remove the entire tumor with surgery alone. This is why radiation therapy is often necessary for grade III meningioma tumors.
Work with a Specialist
Treating a grade I meningioma can be very different from treating a grade III meningioma. This is why it is important to find a specialist within the tri-state area who knows how to effectively diagnose and treat meningioma tumors. No two patients are exactly alike, and you need a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. This includes the size, location and grade of your meningioma tumor, as well as your personal health factors. Take care to find an NJ meningioma specialist so you can rest easy knowing your health is in good hands.