Singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow revealed Tuesday, June 6, 2012 that she has a benign meningioma tumor in her brain. While this can be a terrifying diagnosis, “The fact that they are saying it is a meningioma and that it is benign is a good sign,” says Doctor Michael Sisti, a neurosurgeon at the Department of Neurological Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian hospital who specializes in brain tumors.
Crow reportedly had been having memory problems since the 1990’s and finally had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that revealed the meningioma. Meningiomas are tumors that develop in the protective lining of the brain called the meninges. They are slow-growing and most often benign (not cancerous). These tumors are relatively common, making up 15 – 20% of all primary brain tumors (a primary brain tumor is one that starts out in the brain and hasn’t spread from somewhere else in the body). However, they most often occur in middle-aged women.
“Overall, [when a meningioma is benign] the quality of life for the patient can be excellent!” says Dr. Sisti, who has managed over 1000 patients with this condition over his twenty-year career as a neurosurgeon. “These tumors can be managed in three main ways,” says Dr. Sisti. “If it is small and not affecting brain function, it can just be monitored; if it is affecting brain function and not too large, the Gamma Knife can be used for radiation therapy; and if it is large and in a surgically accessible area, it can be removed surgically. The tumor can also be partially removed, if that is what her team determines is the best option.”
Dr. Michael B. Sisti emphasizes the importance of going to an experienced doctor who works closely with an experienced radiation oncologist, “so that you have an excellent team working for you.”
Given Sheryl Crow’s age and that she appears to be in good health, the odds are high that she will come out of this fine, and “we certainly hope she will,” says Dr. Sisti.
Other examples of famous Americans that have had benign meningiomas are Elizabeth Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Mary Tyler Moore, and Senator Arlen Specter – and they all achieved the best possible outcome.