Meningioma: Introduction

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2017

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 complete 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 a tumor forms in the CNS, it can be especially problematic and challenging to treat because a person’s thought processes, movements, and senses can be affected.

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 grown into to other parts of the body. A benign tumor can grow but will 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.

Approximately 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.

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 of meningioma makes up 20% of all meningiomas.

  • Olfactory groove meningioma. This type of meningioma occurs near the nerves that connect the brain to the nose. This type 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.

Looking for More of an Introduction?

If you would like more of an introduction, explore this related item. Please note that this link will take you to another section on Cancer.Net:

  • Cancer.Net Patient Education Video: View a short video on brain tumors led by an ASCO expert that provides basic information and areas of research.

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