Brain Tumor Program: Meningiomas

Meningiomas stem from the meninges, which are layers of tissue that protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas usually are not cancerous (benign). In fact, less than 10 percent of all meningiomas are cancerous. But if they grow large enough to put pressure on the brain or spinal cord, they can cause symptoms that can affect your ability to perform everyday functions.

UC Irvine Health has the most experienced brain tumor team in Orange County. Our specialists are experts in diagnosing meningiomas using advanced tools and technologies. An accurate diagnosis helps us create an effective and personalized treatment plan for you.

Meningiomas: expert care

Our specialists focus exclusively on treating brain tumors, giving us a unique depth of expertise that is unmatched in Orange County and surrounding communities. We take a collaborative approach to your care, ensuring that you have a complete team of experts working together on your treatment plan.

Highlights of our program include:

  • Expertise: Our team includes some of the nation’s leading brain tumor experts. Working side by side, we deliver compassionate and personalized care. Meet our team ›
  • Latest treatment techniques: We use advanced imaging techniques to accurately target tumors during surgery and radiation therapy treatments, helping us to maintain low complication rates. Learn more about brain tumor treatments ›
  • Clinical trials: We offer access to clinical trials that is unmatched in Orange County and surrounding communities. Patients enrolled in our clinical trials can receive advanced treatments years before they widely available. Learn more about research and clinical trials ›

What are meningiomas?

Meningiomas are one of many different types of brain tumors. A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal brain cells. Tumors form when changes in the molecular structure of the cells (mutations) cause them to grow out of control.

Meningiomas are tumors that form in the cells of the meninges. The meninges include three thin layers of tissue that protect the brain and spinal cord. Watch this video to learn more about meningiomas. Learn more about brain tumors ›

Symptoms of meningiomas

You may not notice any symptoms until the tumor becomes large enough to put pressure on the brain or spinal cord. When this happens, you may experience a range of symptoms, depending on which part of the brain or spinal cord is affected. For many people, the first sign that something is not right comes in the form of headaches or muscle weakness in the arms or legs.

Symptoms may include:

  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain (seizures)
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Trouble walking
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of sensation in your arms or legs
  • Nausea and vomiting

Causes of meningiomas

The underlying cause of meningiomas is not clear. We know that women are more likely to get meningiomas than men, which has led some experts to believe hormones play a role. Researchers have also found a genetic defect in meningioma tissue samples suggesting that these tumors may be passed down in families.

Diagnosing meningiomas

You may need one or more diagnostic tests. Our extended team, which includes radiologists and lab experts (pathologists) who specialize in brain disorders, meets with our brain tumor experts every week to review test results. Our collaborative approach ensures the most accurate possible diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests we use include:

  • Neurologic exam: This test helps us determine whether you are experiencing any changes in brain functioning. During a neurologic exam, we ask questions and have you perform simple tasks to help us assess your vision, coordination and balance, as well as detect changes in mood or behavior.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT scans use X-rays to produce three-dimensional (3-D) images of the brain. Learn more about CT brain scans ›
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses a tunnel-shaped machine along with radio waves and strong magnets to produce detailed images of the brain’s soft tissue. These images are often crisper and more detailed than a CT scan. View a video about MRI scans ›
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: During a PET scan, we inject a safe radioactive substance with sugar into the blood. We use special imaging tests see how quickly brain tissue absorbs the sugar. PET scans help us pinpoint a tumor’s location and determine whether it may spread. View a video about PET scans ›
  • Biopsy: Taking a sample of tumor tissue (biopsy) and examining it under a microscope can help us confirm or rule out a meningioma diagnosis. We may also be able to determine how likely it is for the tumor to grow, which can help us plan future treatments.

Meningioma treatments

The UC Irvine Health Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program offers the best available treatments. We are often the first program in the region to have new medications, technologies and surgical techniques.

Unlike other tumors, meningiomas do not always require immediate treatment. Our comprehensive approach helps us catch and treat meningiomas before they cause life-changing symptoms and complications.

Meningioma treatments include:

  • Watchful waiting: If you are not experiencing symptoms, your treatment may include regular imaging tests and clinic visits so we can detect the first signs of tumor growth. Find out more about diagnosing brain tumors ›
  • Medications: Medications can help relieve symptoms such as seizures, nausea and vomiting.
  • Surgery: If the meningioma is causing symptoms or has grown large enough to put you at risk of dangerous complications, we may remove it with surgery. We are one of few programs in the region using special imaging techniques during surgery (intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging) to safely remove tumors. Learn more about neurosurgery ›
  • Radiation therapy: Meningiomas can come back after surgery. Radiation therapy minimizes this risk. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to prevent tumor cells from reproducing. Our team includes experts who determine the precise dose and treatment technique to help you achieve the best possible results. Read more about our radiation therapy program ›
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses special medications to destroy meningioma cells (neuro-oncology). Our internationally renowned neuro-oncologists are experts at delivering effective treatments that also minimize your risk of unpleasant side effects. Learn more about neuro-oncology ›
  • Clinical trials: The UC Irvine Health brain tumor program is among an elite group of programs nationwide — and one of few in Orange County — that is advancing brain tumor care through research and clinical trials. You may be eligible to participate in trials for new treatments. See a list of open trials for brain tumors ›
  • Patient support: Services such as spiritual support as well as referrals to community resources including transportation services can relieve some of the stress that can go along with brain tumor treatment. Learn more about our patient support services ›

Contact us

To schedule an appointment, call 714-456-8000 or fill out an online request form. You may also send us an email.

Our 24-hour promise: If you are a new patient, one of our brain tumor physicians will return your call within 24 hours. You can be seen in our offices within 48 hours after insurance approval.