Sheryl Crow's Tumor Unlikely Cause of Memory Loss, Expert Says

PHOTO: Sheryl Crow arrives at the TAG Heuer LINK Lady Launch Party at the Mix Lounge at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay on June 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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It's unlikely that singer Sheryl Crow's meningioma -- a tumor that occurs outside of the brain -- triggered her memory loss, a doctor said today.

In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the singer said that she'd found out about the tumor in November after going to the doctor to discuss memory problems.

"I worried about my memory so much that I went and got an MRI," she told the newspaper. "And I found out I have a brain tumor. And I was like, 'See? I knew there was something wrong.'"

It was just a month ago that Crow reportedly forgot the words to her song "Soak Up the Sun" during a concert in Florida.

But Dr. Michael Schulder, vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in New York, told ABC News today that Crow's commonly used treatment plan -- a series of MRI scans to follow the tumor's growth -- "suggests that it's not a very large tumor."

"The kind of symptoms she's describing [memory loss] that came and went. ... It seems unlikely they are the result of tumors unless she had a small seizure" that she was unaware of, Schulder said.

Schulder, who has not treated or examined Crow or seen her MRI, said that although meningiomas often do not cause any symptoms, headaches and seizures are commonly associated with the tumors. He said that tumors that caused memory loss and confused thinking tended to be larger and the symptoms persisted or worsened and might include personality changes as well.

"Either the tumor is bigger than everyone believes or it [the memory issue] was a coincidence or she had a seizure that she might not have known about," he said.

Meningiomas and Breast Cancer

Meningiomas grow from the lining of the brain and inside the skull. Although most of them are benign -- and almost never go beyond the head -- and are considered less severe than those occurring within the brain, 1 percent to 2 percent are malignant and tend to grow back despite surgery and radiation.

Schulder said about 10,000 people a year in the United States are diagnosed with a meningioma. Research has linked meningiomas with breast cancer, he said. Crow is a breast-cancer survivor.

"Women -- middle age or older -- are more likely to get them [meningiomas]," Schulder said. "Women are more likely to get breast cancer than men as well, although either diagnosis can occur in a man. ... There is an underlying hormonal association with the two kinds of tumors [but] it's not well understood."

He said that although most meningiomas could be treated with surgery, those that were connected to critical structures like optic nerves were usually left alone.

"It's a conversation that happens every day across the country," he said of whether to operate on a meningioma.

In May 2011, actress Mary Tyler Moore, 74, underwent elective surgery to remove a tumor from the protective lining around her brain.

At the time, Dr. Alan Cohen, chief of surgery at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, who had not treated or examined Moore, said that surgery could be necessary for two reasons.

"First, to find out exactly what it is pathologically, and, second, to relieve pressure," he said.

According to Cohen, a large meningioma tumor could eventually become cancerous, but even if it remained benign, it could create pressure on the brain, resulting in vision or hearing loss, headaches, seizures or other problems.

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