Carcinomatous meningitis is one of the most aggressive cancers. It is also known as leptomeningeal carcinomatous, leptomeningial cancer, leptomeningial carcinoma, leptomeningial metastasis, meningeal carcinomatous, meningeal metastasis and neoplastic meningitis. Regardless of which name the patient hears at the time of diagnosis, the waves of shock and fear are well founded. The prognosis for carcinomatous meningitis is not good.
Carcinomatous meningitis is a secondary cancer. The most common primary cancers associated with carcinomatous meningitis are breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancers. The cancer spreads from the original tumor into the meninges. The meninges are very thin sheets of protective tissues surrounding the brain and spine. Five out of ten people who have cancer develop carcinomatous meningitis.
Carcinomatous meningitis is usually diagnosed through an MRI or spinal fluid analysis. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, hearing difficulty and difficulty swallowing. The individual may experience crawling, burning or prickly sensations throughout their body. There may be back pain with loss of use in the arms and legs. Symptoms increase in number and severity as the cancer progresses.
Carcinomatous meningitis is very difficult to treat so treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms to improve the quality of life remaining for the individual. Treatment consists of chemotherapy drugs being administered directly into the spinal fluid by way of a lumbar puncture and radiotherapy to the brain.
The prognosis after a cancer diagnosis is based on how long individuals are alive after the original diagnosis. The type of cancer and whether or not patients received treatment are also taken into account when comparing the statistics. The prognosis for carcinomatous meningitis is grim. The median survival rate for individuals who receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy ranges from three to six months. The median survival rate for individuals who receive no treatment ranges from four to six weeks. Death results from progressive neurological deterioration and deterioration of the nervous system from carcinomatous meningitis.
Median survival rates are not set in stone. Individual cases are analyzed as treatment progresses or fails. The sooner carcinomatous meningitis is diagnosed, the better the chances of prolonging life. Choosing whether or not to begin treatment should be thoroughly discussed with the medical team and family members upon receipt of the prognosis.