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Meningiomas

Meningiomas are tumours that start in the membranes (meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Monitoring meningioma

Some meningiomas are found on an MRI scan done for another reason. Some of these may grow very slowly (low grade). Your doctor may recommend regular scans to monitor the meningioma and only recommend treatment if it grows or changes. 

Surgery for meningioma

It is often possible to completely remove meningiomas with surgery. But it depends on where they are in the brain. Sometimes they grow around important blood vessels or nerves. In these cases, it is not possible to remove them completely.

Radiotherapy for meningioma

You may have radiotherapy after the surgery to help stop the tumour from coming back or to slow its growth so that it takes longer to grow back. If you have a meningioma in an area where surgeons can't operate (for example in the base of the skull), radiotherapy can stop the tumour growing and help to relieve any symptoms it causes.

Fast growing (high grade) meningiomas

Specialists usually suggest radiotherapy after surgery for high grade meningiomas, even if the whole tumour is removed. This is to reduce the chance of the meningioma growing back. If the tumour does come back your doctor may suggest further surgery or further radiotherapy. Chemotherapy may be used although the chance of it working is low. The drugs used may include hydroxycarbamide or octreotide.

 

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About meningioma

Meningiomas are tumours that start in the membranes (meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord.

 

Treatments for meningioma

The treatment for meningioma depends on where it is in the brain and whether is it growing slowly (low grade) or more quickly growing (anaplastic or high grade).  More than 9 out of 10 meningiomas diagnosed (90%) are low grade.

Treatments may include

 

Monitoring meningioma

Some meningiomas are found on an MRI scan done for another reason. Some of these may grow very slowly (low grade). Your doctor may recommend regular scans to monitor the meningioma and only recommend treatment if it grows or changes. 

 

Surgery for meningioma

It is often possible to completely remove meningiomas with surgery. But it depends on where they are in the brain. Sometimes they grow around important blood vessels or nerves. In these cases, it is not possible to remove them completely.

Removing part of the tumour can be a successful treatment in some people because these brain tumours often grow slowly (are low grade - grade 1 or 2) and are diagnosed in quite elderly patients. 

If your surgeon can remove the whole tumour and it is grade 1, you won't need any more treatment after surgery.

If the surgeon can't remove the whole tumour or it is grade 2 your treatment team will usually recommend that you have radiotherapy.

 

Radiotherapy for meningioma

It the tumour has been removed completely, radiotherapy lowers the risk of it coming back. If it could not be removed completely the radiotherapy can slow the growth of the tumour so that it takes longer to grow back. If you are in poor health, it may be possible to wait before giving radiotherapy to see if the cancer grows back enough to cause symptoms or not.

If you have a meningioma in an area that can't be operated on (for example in the base of the skull), radiotherapy can slow down the tumour and help to relieve any symptoms it causes. For small tumours you may have stereotactic radiotherapy, in which several radiotherapy beams are aimed from different points around your head to precisely target the tumour.

 

Fast growing (anaplastic) meningiomas

Specialists usually suggest radiotherapy after surgery for anaplastic (high grade) meningiomas, even if the whole tumour is removed. Otherwise, there is a high risk that the tumour will come back.

If the tumour does come back your doctor may suggest further surgery or further radiotherapy.

 

Chemotherapy for meningioma

Chemotherapy is not often used for meningioma and the chance of it working is low. But your doctor may recommend it if a high grade meningioma comes back after surgery or radiotherapy treatment. Drugs that may be used include hydroxycarbamide and octreotide.

 

More information about meningioma treatment

If you would like more information about meningioma treatment you may find information in our section about brain tumour treatment.

You can find information about the outlook (prognosis) for these tumours on the brain tumour statistics and outlook page

You are also welcome to contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

You can contact one of the brain tumour organisations or look at our brain tumour reading list. If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum.

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Updated: 12 December 2013