Brain tumors may sound scary, but did you know there are many types which are easily treatable with little to no adverse side effects? To help you understand these types of treatable brain tumors, known as meningioma, we spoke with board-certified neurosurgeon Ravi Gandhi, MD, who specializes in brain tumors and minimally invasive brain surgery.
What’s a Meningioma and Who’s at Risk?
“A meningioma is a tumor which forms within the meninges, or the outer three thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord,” explains Dr. Gandhi.
Meningiomas account for about 36% of all primary brain tumors and 20% of brain tumors overall.
“Meningiomas are a very common type of tumor within the head. I perform an average of two brain tumor surgeries a week, and about one meningioma-specific surgery per month. Many of my patients go on to live healthy, fulfilling lives under our care.”
Meningiomas can affect anyone, but 40% occur in adults over the age of 60.
“Certain genetic mutations can cause you to have multiple meningiomas, and these same genetic mutations can cause these types of brain tumors to run in your family.”
Meningiomas Are Usually Benign
Meningiomas are usually benign and grow slowly, meaning they don’t have cancerous cells that can spread to other parts of the body.
“All tumors are evaluated and given a specific stage, from grade 1 being the least aggressive to grade 4 being most aggressive. 90% of meningiomas are completely benign (or grade 1), few are grade 2, and a grade 3 or 4 meningioma is very rare,” explains Dr. Gandhi.
Meningiomas Are Usually Found by Accident
“70 to 80% of meningiomas are found incidentally, meaning you may have no symptoms when the tumor is identified through a CAT scan or MRI for an unrelated reason,” says Dr. Gandhi.
“The remaining 20 to 30% of the time, meningiomas cause symptoms which bring you in to see a doctor who then recommends further evaluation and more specific testing.”
Meningioma Symptoms Vary Based on Location
“If you have a meningioma, you’ll likely never have a symptom until it gets to a certain size or starts to affect a specific location in the brain. Location is everything,” points out Dr. Gandhi.
Meningiomas tend to grow inward and can eventually cause pressure on the brain or spinal cord. When it begins to put pressure on the brain, you may begin having symptoms.
Common meningioma symptoms can include chronic:
- Difficulty hearing
- Problems with speech
- Disturbances in vision
- Facial weakness and/or pain
- Neurologic difficulties
Meningiomas Don’t Always Require Surgery
Meningiomas most commonly occur in specific locations, usually over the surface of the brain or skull.
“Everyone is unique, with different tumor sizes and locations, symptoms, growth rate, age and medical history. The treatments we recommend consider many factors,” explains Dr. Gandhi.
“Treatment generally falls into three options: observation, surgery to remove the tumor, and radiation, which is rarely required. Most patients with meningiomas just need observation. Depending on the size and location, we check the meningioma through an MRI once a year to see if it’s changing.”
If your meningioma reaches a specific size or you’re experiencing symptoms, surgery is often the first line of treatment.
Surgery Often Brings Positive Outcomes
“If you’ve been diagnosed with a meningioma and you’re being told you need surgery, it becomes important to have surgery performed by a neurosurgeon who specializes in these types of tumors,” says Dr. Gandhi.
“When your neurosurgeon has enough experience, the risk of complications and difficulties after surgery to remove a meningioma are relatively low. But just like any surgery, there are always risks, which go up as a tumor gets larger or is in a more challenging part of the brain.”
After surgery you can expect to spend about a day in the ICU for close monitoring, followed by another one to two days in the hospital before returning home. Once home, you’re advised to take it easy, but you should be able to do most of your daily activities. The only restrictions are on vigorous activity which should be avoided for a few weeks.
“We do frequent follow-ups after surgery to make sure you‘re healing well with no complications. Once we know you’re doing well, you generally only need to come for check-ups once a year,” says Dr. Gandhi.
Meningiomas May Return
Just like any tumor, meningiomas can come back after you’ve had surgery to remove them.
“The rate of reoccurrence depends on how much of the tumor tissue and surrounding cells are removed during surgery,” says Dr. Gandhi. “If the entire tumor has been removed, as well as all other affected tissue, reoccurrence is much less likely.”
If the tumor is too close to an artery or certain nerves, surgery may not be an option due to increased risk of complication.
“Sometimes, due to the location and position of the tumor, part of the tumor or affected tissue can’t always be removed, and the chance of reoccurrence is higher. But since meningiomas are usually slow-growing tumors, we can often control their growth with radiation.”
No One Knows What Causes Meningiomas
There’s no proven cause of meningiomas, but there are two important risk factors to be aware of: exposure to radiation and a genetic condition called type 2 neurofibromatosis.
“We’ve also identified some meningiomas have estrogen and progesterone receptors, so they can grow faster in stages of hormonal changes that occur throughout pregnancy, during certain treatments for breast cancer, and with the use of birth control medications and hormone replacement therapy. This is a correlation and does not necessarily mean these things are a cause of meningiomas,” noted Dr. Gandhi.
“It’s also important to point out there’s no proven association between meningiomas or any type of brain tumor and cell phone usage.”
Extending Hope for All
From helping patients with meningiomas to those with many other neurological conditions and traumas, Dr. Gandhi shares his love for what he does as a neurosurgeon.
“When I wake up every day, I feel lucky I get to help people as a neurosurgeon. Being a neurosurgeon is something I dreamt about since childhood. I decided I wanted to be a neurosurgeon in fourth grade after having my grandfather experience a stroke. By learning more about how someone who can treat diseases of the brain can change a person or family’s lives, my commitment to making this dream come true was even more solidified.”
“The reality of my childhood dream is just how I always imagined it would be. I talk to patients and their families, sometimes at their worst, and provide hope and comfort. And I get to work within a hospital that has some of the most advanced technology available in the field. This supports me in providing safer surgery and better outcomes for my patients. It’s what I was meant to do.”
At the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute we provide convenient, personalized care with world-class talent, treatments, technology and compassion. We’re focused on providing you the most effective options for managing brain tumors — while healing your spirit, too.
Learn more about and how our team of world-class specialists can put you on the road to whole health by visiting our site.