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Spinal Meningiomas

About Spinal Meningiomas

Spinal meningiomas are tumors that arise from the meninges, the covering of the spinal cord and central nervous system. They can occur at any location in the spine but predominantly are found in the thoracic (mid-spine) region. These tumors may cause pain or neurological symptoms in your back or extremities. They are usually benign, slow-growing tumors, that can effectively be treated with surgery. Some spinal meningiomas can be treated with minimally invasive tumor surgery.

The exact cause of spinal meningioma is not known. The tumors are four times as likely to appear in women than men. However, the rare malignant form of meningiomas is more commonly found in men. The tumor tends to occur in people around the age of 45.

Common Symptoms of a Spinal Meningioma

Pressure on the spinal cord or nerves from the tumor is what causes symptoms of a spinal meningioma. Symptoms vary based on the location of the tumor and tend to grow worse as the tumor grows in size. Some symptoms include:

  • Weakness/numbness in arms or legs
  • Difficulty with bladder, bowel, and/or sexual function
  • Walking difficulty
  • Lost coordination

Diagnosis of a Spinal Meningioma

Two types of image testing are usually used to diagnosis spinal meningiomas.

  • MRI scan – provides useful information on the size and location of the tumor, and the effect it has had on surrounding structures
  • CT scan – are useful in patients with pacemakers or other metallic devices. These images can see calcium deposits which are common in meningiomas

Treatment Options for a Spinal Meningioma

Small meningiomas that are not causing symptoms may be left and observed over time. If treatment is necessary, the first option is usually surgery. Since the tumors are typically not cancerous, surgical removal often results in a cure. Some tumors are difficult to completely remove and can recur. Stereotactic radiosurgery (a form of radiation therapy) may be used to treat tumors that cannot be fully removed or that grow back.