Many brain tumors and other conditions affect the skull base. These include brain tumors, pituitary tumors, acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, and other types of tumors and developmental abnormalities and infections.
The skull consists of several bones, often called sutures, that form the bottom of the head and the body ridge in the back of the eyes. The base of the skull lies behind the eyes and nose. Treating skull base tumors and conditions is challenging because they are very close to critical nerves and blood vessels in the brain, head, neck, and spinal cord, which can affect the body’s ability to function.
Skull base tumors grow primarily on the inside of the skull, but occasionally on the outside. Some tumors originate in the skull base, while others spread there from a cancer elsewhere in the body (metastatic).
Symptoms of most skull base tumors appear slowly. Skull base tumors are usually diagnosed when they grow and cause pressure on vital structures in the brain, such as the pituitary gland, the optic nerve and the carotid arteries.
Common symptoms of skull base tumors and conditions include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Altered sense of smell
- Blurred or double vision
- Trouble swallowing
- Hearing loss
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, a patient might undergo a series of diagnostic procedures including Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT scans. Other imaging studies include a bone scan and a PET scan.
Treatment for skull base tumors and conditions may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or observation. The treatment for a skull base tumor or condition depends on many factors. If the patient’s tumor is benign and in a part of the skull base where neurosurgeons can safely remove it completely, surgery may be the only treatment needed. Although many tumors are amenable to minimally invasive endonasal endoscopic surgery, there are in fact a variety of approaches to surgery for skull base tumors.