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Making the right health care decisions for yourself involves knowing your options and having the information to choose the right ones. If you have been diagnosed with a spinal meningioma, there are several treatments to consider. One may be more appropriate than another for your particular case – learning now about what types of spinal meningioma treatments are available will only put you that much further ahead of the game.

A Few Facts About Spinal Meningiomas

Spinal meningiomas are tumors that originate in or on the meninges. The meninges are the protective membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Meningiomas can grow on the meninges’ outer or inner surface, or within the meninges themselves.

Most meningiomas are benign, meaning they aren’t made up of cancerous tissues. Most are also extremely slow-growing. This means that when a meningioma is found, aggressive treatment is not always necessary.

Spinal Meningioma Treatment Options

Spinal meningioma management typically involves either monitoring or surgical removal. A third option, stereotactic radiosurgery, exists but is still unproven and its role is yet to be defined. Depending on the location, size and growth rate of your tumor, one of these options will be recommended by your neurosurgeon.

Different imaging studies, such as MRIs or CT Scans, will help determine the involvement of your meningioma with other parts of your spine and spinal cord, the rate at which it is growing and other essential data. If it is slow-growing and doesn’t interfere with nerves or the spinal cord no treatment may be necessary.

A Case for Monitoring

If your meningioma isn’t causing any symptoms or interfering with any other structure in your spinal region, your doctor may recommend monitoring the tumor. Although a conclusive diagnosis cannot be made without actually looking at a specimen of the tumor through a microscope, a diagnosis of a benign meningioma is assumed if the tumor looks like a meningioma on MRI and shows little or no growth over many months.

Monitoring of a meningioma essentially consists of visiting your physician at regular intervals for examination and imaging to ensure that the tumor is not growing or spreading and that it doesn’t begin to have an impact on your spinal cord. This is the most passive spinal meningioma treatment, in that it doesn’t involve any medical intervention.

Many doctors will go this route when they are confident that a meningioma isn’t posing a threat to a patient’s overall well-being. However, if your meningioma appears to be growing in a manner that might cause problems down the road, your neurosurgeon will likely recommend more aggressive intervention to prevent its spread.

Surgical Meningioma Removal

If your surgeon is concerned about the location or size of your meningioma, or it is causing you to experience associated symptoms, you may receive a recommendation for removal of the tumor. There are two main types of surgery for meningiomas – open surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Both require you to be under general anesthesia, which means you would be completely asleep for the duration of the surgery. Either is a useful meningioma treatment – the one your doctor chooses depends on the location of the meningioma, its involvement with surrounding tissues and, of course, whether your doctor is trained in minimally invasive tumor surgery.

Open vs. Minimally Invasive Surgery

With advances in microsurgical techniques and the routine use of neuromonitoring, surgery for spinal meningiomas can be performed very safely in the right hands. Nevertheless there can be long-term effects that are related to the removal of bone and the treatment of the muscles around the spine when the surgery is performed in the traditional manner. Although many meningiomas really require the traditional “open” exposure, other meningiomas can be removed in a minimally invasive fashion which leads to faster recoveries and less potential for spinal instability down the road.

Final Thoughts

If you are unsure about which spinal meningioma treatment is going to be the right one for you, discuss all of these options with your doctor. He can guide you in making the right decision based on the size and location of your tumor, as well as other important factors. Once you’ve had a candid discussion with your doctor, you will be able to make a properly informed decision that meets your health care needs.

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