Meningioma: Introduction

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Meningioma. Use the menu to see other pages. Think of that menu as a roadmap for this entire guide.

About the central nervous system

The brain and spinal column make up the central nervous system (CNS), which controls many of the vital functions of the body. When planning treatment for a tumor in the CNS, doctors consider how a person’s thought processes, movements, and senses may be affected by the tumor and potential treatment options.

About meningioma

A tumor begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, often forming a mass. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. In general, a cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can spread or grow into other parts of the body. A benign tumor can grow but will usually not spread.

This guide focuses on meningioma. Meningioma is usually a slow-growing tumor that forms on the surface of the brain. It may cause significant symptoms if it grows and presses on the brain or spinal cord. Meningioma starts in the meningeal tissues, which are thin membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. There are 3 meningeal layers: the dura mater, arachnoid, and pia mater. The meninges protect the brain and spinal cord and help the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) circulate between the arachnoid and pia layers.

Around 80% of meningiomas are benign. The remaining 20% are either called atypical because they have an increased risk of returning after treatment or, rarely, malignant. Malignant meningioma may be called anaplastic.

The image is a drawing of a cross-section of the skull and meninges. It shows the layers of membranes that surround and protect the brain. The first layer shows the skin covering the skull bone. Beneath the skull is the dura mater, which surrounds the arachnoid mater. Cerebrospinal fluid circulates in the sub arachnoid space between arachnoid mater and the pia mater, which covers the cerebral cortex (the brain). Copyright 2004 American Society of Clinical Oncology. Robert Morreale/Visual Explanations, LLC.

Subtypes of meningioma

Meningioma is often classified based on where it starts in the CNS.

  • Falx and parasagittal meningioma. The falx is a membrane that sits in a groove between the left and right sides of the brain. It contains a large blood vessel and protects the brain. Parasagittal meningioma occurs at the top of the falx just on the inside of the skull. These are the most common types of meningioma and make up about 25% of all meningiomas.

  • Convexity meningioma. This type of meningioma occurs on the outer surface of the brain. It makes up about 20% of meningiomas.

  • Sphenoid meningioma. The sphenoidal ridge is located behind the eyes. This type makes up 20% of meningiomas.

  • Olfactory groove meningioma. This type of meningioma occurs near the nerves that connect the brain to the nose. It makes up 10% of meningiomas.

  • Posterior fossa meningioma. Posterior fossa meningioma develops at the back of the brain. It makes up 10% of all meningiomas.

  • Suprasellar meningioma. Suprasellar meningioma occurs next to the sella turcica. This is an area at the base of the skull in the center of the skull where the pituitary gland sits. This type makes up 10% of all meningiomas.

  • Spinal meningioma. Spinal meningioma usually occurs in the spine at chest level and may push against the spinal cord. It can cause pain radiating around the chest wall, bladder trouble, or weakness or numbness in the legs. This type makes up less than 10% of all meningiomas.

  • Intraorbital meningioma. This type of meningioma develops in or around the eye sockets. It accounts for less than 10% of meningiomas.

  • Intraventricular meningioma. Intraventricular meningioma occurs in the chambers that carry fluid throughout the brain. This type makes up about 2% of all meningiomas.

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The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain the number of people who are diagnosed with meningioma and general survival rates. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.