Meningitis: Carcinomatous and Fungal Meningitis

Meningitis is a rare but serious condition that affects the meninges, the three delicate membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. When these membranes become inflamed, a viral or bacterial infection is often to blame but certain fungi and even cancer can also trigger meningitis. Fortunately, the likelihood of meningitis caused by these two factors are extremely rare and unlike viral or bacterial meningitis, carcinomatous and fungal meningitis are not transmitted from person to person. Additionally, if the cause of your meningitis is determined to be the result of a viral or bacterial infection, it is best treated by medical or neurological physicians, whereas carcinomatous and fungal meningitis are diseases that will require specialized medical attention from an experienced neurosurgeon.

Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for Carcinomatous and Fungal Meningitis

Carcinomatous Meningitis

Carcinomatous meningitis (CM) is a rare but life-threatening complication of cancer in which cancer spreads to the meninges that surround the brain and spinal cord. In some cases, CM may be detected before the presence of systemic cancer is even found. In order to diagnose the condition, a lumbar puncture must be performed by a licensed and experienced neurosurgeon. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is extracted and sent to a laboratory to look for any malignant cells. MRI and CAT scan imaging of the brain and spinal cord may also be performed to diagnose this condition.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • The condition typically results from the metastatic spread of cancer into the CSF.
  • It can happen with many types of cancers but melanoma, breast cancer, lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancer are the most common.


  • Headache
  • Altered mental state
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Speech problems
  • Pain or weakness in one or more extremity
  • Face pain


Chemotherapy for treating meningitis can be intrathecally administered. A neurosurgeon will install an Ommaya reservoir which is used to deliver chemotherapy directly into the brain.

Fungal Meningitis

Fungal meningitis is a rare condition that is typically caused by the Cryptococcus spp. infection, but there are also many other fungi that may occasionally lead to meningitis. When fungi are inhaled, the pathogens are spread through the bloodstream to the spinal cord. While there are no specific activities that are linked to fungal meningitis, it is best to avoid soil and other similar environments that have a high likelihood of containing harmful fungi, especially if you have a weaker immune system.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Cryptococcus is the most common cause of fungal meningitis.
  • Anyone is susceptible to fungal meningitis but those with weaker immune systems as a result of certain diseases such as HIV or cancer are at a greater risk.
  • Various medications, diseases or surgical procedures can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of contracting a fungal infection.
  • Other factors such as pregnancy or living in a geographic area that has high fungal concentrations also increase the risk of fungal meningitis.


  • Headache
  • Stiff Neck
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Altered mental status


Fungal meningitis is typically treated through a high dose of IV antifungal drugs. However, the course of treatment usually depends on the status of your immune system and the type of fungus that is responsible for the infection.

At Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, Dr. Lewis is a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in the treatment of both carcinomatous and fungal meningitis. He offers the latest in minimally-invasive radiosurgery procedures that are tailored to each individual’s specific condition. With several treatment options available, we can make sure that all your medical needs are addressed and you can be sure that you will be well taken care of throughout the entire process.

Contact us today to schedule your consultation with Dr. Lewis. We’ll find the right solution that works for you. Call us at (601) 366-1011.