TV host and Massachusetts native Maria Menounos made headlines when she revealed she underwent surgery for a meningioma – a type of brain tumor – in June after caring for her mother, who is also battling brain cancer.
“I didn’t cry. I actually laughed,” Menounos told People magazine. “It’s so surreal and crazy and unbelievable that my mom has a brain tumor—and now I have one too?”
Jason Rahal, MD, a neurosurgeon with South Shore NeuroSpine, says while brain tumors, including meningiomas, are rare, meningiomas are more common in women of Menounos’ age. A meningioma is a tumor that originates from the tissue that envelops the surface of the brain, and can cause symptoms when it grows large enough to push on the brain, nerves, or spinal cord.
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with these tumors as men—and are three times as likely to be diagnosed during their childbearing years. Meningiomas account for one-third of all diagnosed central nervous system tumors. Dr. Rahal explains that fortunately, these tumors are typically benign and most can be treated with surgery, radiation, or a combination of the two.
Dr. Rahal says Menounos did the right thing by calling her doctor as soon as she noticed unusual symptoms.
“There are many symptoms that are common to not only meningiomas, but may also signal other types of brain tumors. It’s important that you call your doctor if you notice any neurologic symptoms, and he or she can make a referral to a neurosurgeon or other appropriate clinician,” says Dr. Rahal.
Here are five symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
- Headaches: Be mindful of headaches that are out of proportion to what you usually experience, are associated with nausea and vomiting, or progressively worsen. If your headaches usually go away with an ibuprofen but you suddenly experience severe pain that doesn’t get better, call your doctor.
- Weakness or numbness: Dr. Rahal says that if you notice weakness or numbness in your face, arms or legs, make time to get checked out.
- Vision changes: Menounos told People that she struggled to read the teleprompter at work. Brain tumors can put pressure on your optic nerves, or other parts of the visual system, and can cause changes in vision.
- Struggles with language: Menounos says that she noticed she was slurring her speech. If you’re struggling to communicate clearly, reach out to a medical professional.
- Seizure: Any time you or a loved one have a seizure, you should head to the emergency room or call your doctor to schedule an evaluation. Thirty percent of patients who are diagnosed with a meningioma experience a seizure prior to his or her diagnosis.
“Listen to your instincts and ask your doctor to investigate any unusual symptoms you may experience,” says Dr. Rahal. “While the diagnosis of a brain tumor can be a scary, life-altering, and at times, devastating event in one’s life, through compassion, knowledge, and modern medical and surgical techniques, neurosurgeons can help patients – and their families – through diagnosis and treatment.”
Dr. Jason Rahal is a neurosurgeon at South Shore NeuroSpine and is currently accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment, call 781-331-0250.