Information about meningiomas

On this page, you will find information about meningiomas, including the different types, grading and possible symptoms.

For more information about our meningioma support network visit our meningioma webpages here. 

What is a meningioma?

Meningiomas are a type of brain tumour. A meningioma is a tumour that starts in the meninges. The meninges are layers of tissue (membranes) that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord. There are three layers:

  • The dura mater. This layer surrounds and supports the large channels that carry blood from the brain toward the heart.
  • The arachnoid. This middle layer helps protect the brain and spinal cord from sudden impact.
  • The pia mater. This layer is next to the brain and follows its contours. It acts as a barrier and aids in the production of cerebrospinal fluid.

This two-minute video explains the meninges and the layers.

Most meningiomas are slow-growing tumours, although some can grow faster. Although the majority of meningiomas are non-malignant, these tumours can grow slowly until they are very large, if left undiscovered. In some locations, they can be severely disabling and life-threatening. Other forms of meningiomas may be more aggressive. Most patients develop a single meningioma; however, some patients may develop several tumours growing simultaneously in other locations in the brain.

We don’t know why these tumours start, although there are predisposing factors associated with meningiomas. These include exposure to radiation (e.g. in the treatment of childhood cancers, such as leukaemia), prolonged use of certain hormones (e.g. in gender-reassignment treatment) and some genetic disorders (e.g. neurofibromatosis). We know that non-malignant meningiomas are also more common in women than in men, and they may show increased growth during pregnancy.

Why we don’t call meningiomas benign

A word about benign meningiomas. At brainstrust, we don’t use the word benign. We call these tumours non-malignant. About 80%–90% of meningiomas are non-malignant. It is hard calling something benign when these tumours can be life-changing, disabling and come with a high symptom burden. Calling a meningioma benign can devalue the impact that it has on someone’s life.

Types of meningiomas

The World Health Organization (WHO) classification of brain tumours is the most widely used tool in grading brain tumour types. The WHO classification scheme recognises variations of meningiomas according to their cell type as seen under a microscope. These variations are called meningioma subtypes – the technical term for these variations is histological subtypes. These histological subtypes are organised into three grades, which generally reflect the rate of growth and likelihood of recurrence.

Table of meningioma subtypes

Grading of meningiomas

This is where it gets a little complicated. Meningiomas are graded I to III. Grading is based on histopathology – the study of the disease and the cells and tissues. So in this instance, histopathology can only be achieved by doing a biopsy or removing the meningioma, and that would then be sent for analysis.

Grades of meningiomas

Symptoms of meningiomas

Meningiomas are typically slow-growing tumours, with the most common classification of meningioma being grade I. This means that most symptoms will occur gradually, if at all.

Not all meningiomas cause symptoms, but symptoms may be caused by the tumour pressing on other parts of the brain as it grows, or a build-up of pressure. This means that symptoms will vary according to the size, location and growth rate of the tumour.

Possible symptoms include:

  • new, persistent headaches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • behaviour and personality change
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • weakness in an arm or leg
  • balance issues
  • seizures (fits)
  • sight problems.

If you are concerned about any symptoms, always seek medical advice.

Did this information make you feel more resourced, more confident or more in control?


The Brain Tumour Data Dashboard lets you explore up -to-date, population level data about the brain tumours diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2015. Using the drop down menus on the left you can select different groups of patients to view in the charts below. In these charts the number of patients for every 100 diagnoses is displayed as images of people. Patients have been grouped by date of diagnosis, type of tumour, age, gender, and region in England.

For each group of patients you can explore the different routes to diagnosis, the proportion of those who received chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as the survival of the patients within each group. For more information about what these metrics mean please see the glossary.

How to use

  1. Select the year of diagnosis using the drop down menu.
  2. Select your patient group of interest from the four drop down menus in the following order:
    1. Tumour group
    2. Age at diagnosis
    3. Region of England
    4. Gender of patient
  3. To view a second chart to compare different groups of patients, click the ‘compare’ button.The second chart will appear below the first chart.

*Note that the tool is best used on a laptop or tablet rather than a mobile phone*

Unavailable data

Some of the data in these charts is not available.There are two main reasons for this:

  1. How the data has been grouped

If you cannot select a patient group from the drop down menus, the data is unavailable because of how the data has been organised.

Public Health England has grouped the data like a branching tree. The bottom of the tree contains all the patients with brain tumours, and then each branch divides the data by a certain characteristics, like age, or location of tumour. But the data is divided in an order, starting with location of the tumour (endocrine or brain), then by age, region, and gender. Age is at the start because it makes a bigger difference to survival rates and treatment rates than gender or region. Sometimes, after the data has been split by type of tumour and age, there is not enough data to be split again. This is because to protect patient confidentiality groups cannot contain less than 100 patients. Because some groups cannot be split further, you cannot create ‘totals’ for everyone by region or gender. For example, you cannot see results for all ages by region, or all brain tumours by gender. If these totals were calculated and released, it might be possible to identify patients, which is why Public Health England cannot release this data.

  1. Statistical reasons and data availability

If you can select a patient group from the chart menus, but the chart does not display, the data is unavailable for one of several reasons:

  1. Data is not yet available for the selected year from Public Health England.
  2. Data is not available because the data quality is too poor to release this statistic.
  3. Data is not available as the statistic is not appropriate for this group.
  4. Data is not available because the standard error of the estimate was greater than 20% and so the estimate has been supressed.

Up to date brain tumour data

Brain tumour data may influence the decisions you make about your care. Data also helps you understand the bigger picture, or landscape, in which you find yourself.

Brain tumour data and statistics influence the focus, and work of organisations like brainstrust. The information helps us to understand the scale and impact of the problems we are setting out to solve.

This tool helps you understand the landscape in which you find yourself having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. This landscape can be particularly tricky to navigate as there are many different types of brain tumour, all of which have a different impact.

The information you see represents the most up-to-date, official, population level brain tumour data available for England. Over time we will be adding to the brain tumour data available and publishing reports, with recommendations, as a result of what we learn from this data.

The data behind this content has come from Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) and is a direct result of the ‘Get Data Out’ project.

This project provides anonymised population level brain tumour data for public use in the form of standard output tables, accessible here:


The number or rate (per head of population) of new cases of a disease diagnosed in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of cases divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Malignant tumours which grow by invasion into surrounding tissues and have the ability to metastasise to distant sites


The number or rate (per head of population) of deaths in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of deaths divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Not cancerousNon-malignant tumours may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.


The length of time from the date of diagnosis for a disease, such as cancer, that patients diagnosed with the disease are still alive. In a clinical trial, measuring the survival is one way to see how well a new treatment works. Also called ‘overall survival’ or ‘OS’.

Routes to Diagnosis

Under the ‘Routes to Diagnosis’ tab in the Brain Tumour Data Dashboard, you can explore the ways patients have been diagnosed with brain tumours. There are many ways, or routes, for cancers to be diagnosed in the NHS. A ‘route to diagnosis’ is the series of events between a patient and the healthcare system that leads to a diagnosis of cancer. The routes include:

  1. Two Week Wait

Patients are urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer via the Two Week Wait system and are seen by a specialist within 2 weeks where they are diagnosed.

  1. GP referral

Diagnosis via a GP referral includes routine and urgent referrals where the patient was not referred under the Two Week Wait system.

  1. Emergency Presentation

Cancers can be diagnosed via emergency situations such as via A&E, emergency GP referral, emergency transfer or emergency admission.

  1. Outpatient

Outpatient cancer diagnoses include diagnoses via an elective route which started with an outpatient appointment that is either a self-referral or consultant to consultant referral. (It does not include those under the Two Week Wait referral system).

  1. Inpatient elective

Diagnosis via an inpatient elective route is where diagnosis occurs after the patient has been admitted into secondary care from a waiting list, or where the admission is booked or planned.

  1. Death Certificate Only

Diagnoses made by Death Certificate Only are made where there is no more information about the cancer diagnosis other than the cancer related death notifications. The date of diagnosis is the same as that of the date of death.

  1. Unknown

For some patients with a cancer diagnosis, there is no relevant data available to understand the route to diagnosis.


More information

If any of the statistical terms in this section of the brainstrust website are hard to understand, we recommend looking them up here:

Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Statistics Explained

If you are looking for help understanding terms relating specifically to brain tumours, and treatment, then the brainstrust glossary is available here: