Maria Menounos' Brain Tumor: 5 Things to Know

Maria Menounos (Image credit: John Sciulli/Getty)

TV host Maria Menounos had surgery to remove a brain tumor last month, according to People magazine.

Menounos, who is 39, told People that it took surgeons about 7 hours to remove the tumor, and that it was benign, or noncancerous. But benign brain tumors can still cause problems. Menounos said that her speech had become slurred and she was having trouble reading the teleprompter. [10 Things You Didn't Know About the Brain]

Her tumor, called a meningioma, was located in a part of her brain near her facial nerves, People reported.

Here are five things to know about meningiomas.

Meningiomas aren't technically "brain" tumors.

A meningioma grows in a person's meninges, which is the layer of tissue that lines the brain and the spinal cord, according to the Mayo Clinic. The meninges are found between the brain and the skull, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

That means that, technically speaking, this type of tumor isn't a brain tumor, because it doesn't form in brain tissue.

But because meningiomas can squeeze or compress brain tissue, along with nerves and vessels found in the brain, they are often thought of as brain tumors, the Mayo Clinic says.

But they are the most common tumor found in the head.

Meningiomas are the most common type of tumor that forms in the head, the Mayo Clinic says.

These tumors account for about 36 percent of primary brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA). "Primary" brain tumors are those that initially formed in the brain or surrounding tissues, such as the meninges, as opposed to tumors that originated elsewhere in the body and then spread to the brain or surrounding tissue, the ABTA says.

Meningiomas are about twice as common in women as they are in men, the ABTA says. About 85 percent of the tumors are benign, or noncancerous, Johns Hopkins Medicine says.

Meningiomas grow slowly.

Because meningiomas grow very slowly, people may have these tumors for many years without experiencing any symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says. A meningioma doesn't cause symptoms until it grows large enough to interfere with functions in the brain, according to the ABTA.

Sometimes, doctors find meningiomas when they are looking for other problems. This is known as "incidental" detection and can occur, for example, when a doctor finds a meningioma on a brain scan that was done for other reasons, such as after an injury, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

If a meningioma isn't causing symptoms, doctors may decide to monitor the tumor rather than treat it right away, the Mayo Clinic says.

Symptoms depend on where meningiomas grow.

The symptoms that meningiomas cause depend on where in the brain the tumor grows.

For example, if a meningioma presses on the trigeminal nerve, which affects sensation in the face, a person could experience symptoms such as facial numbness, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Or a meningioma could interfere with the olfactory nerve, causing symptoms such as a loss of smell.

Other common symptoms from meningiomas include headaches, seizures, blurred vision, weakness in the arms or legs, and numbness, Johns Hopkins Medicine says. These symptoms can start off very gradually and be subtle at first, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Surgery is the main treatment for a meningioma.

If a meningioma is causing symptoms or growing, doctors may decide to operate to the remove the tumor.

The goal of surgery is to remove all of the meningioma, but sometimes, this can be difficult to do because of where the tumor is located in the head, the Mayo Clinic says. For example, a meningioma may be located very close to delicate structures in the brain that surgeons do not want to touch.

In some cases, doctors may turn to radiation to kill what remains of a person's meningioma, according to the Mayo Clinic. But in other instances, if only a small piece remains and the tumor is benign, doctors may decide against further treatment and instead keep an eye on the tumor via periodic brain scans.

But even if doctors do remove the entire tumor, they conduct follow-up brain scans to monitor the patient, the Mayo Clinic says.

Originally published on Live Science.

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.