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These tumors grow from the meninges, the layers of tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. As they grow, meningiomas compress adjacent brain tissue. Symptoms are often related to this compression of brain tissue, which can also affect cranial nerves and blood vessels. In some cases, meningioma growth can also extend into the bones of the head and face, which may produce visible changes.
Most meningiomas are considered nonmalignant or low grade tumors. However, unlike nonmalignant tumors elsewhere in the body, some of these brain tumors can cause disability and may sometimes be life threatening. In many cases, meningiomas grow slowly. Other meningiomas grow more rapidly or have sudden growth spurts.
There is no way to predict the rate of growth of a meningioma or to know for certain how long a specific tumor was growing before diagnosis. Meningiomas are graded from low to high. The lower the grade, the lower the risk of recurrence and aggressive growth.
The WHO classification divides meningiomas into three grades:
If there are no symptoms, the doctor may monitor the tumor with MRIs. Otherwise, surgery is the standard treatment. If the tumor cannot be completely resected or if it recurs, radiation therapy may be given as well. Chemotherapy for unresectable, aggressive, atypical, or recurrent meningiomas is being tested through clinical trials. Follow-up scans are needed indefinitely, because meningiomas can recur years or even decades after treatment.
Please speak with your health care provider for more information about your tumor type, biomarkers, and treatment options, including clinical trials.