Craniopharyngiomas are benign brain tumors, meaning they are not cancerous. They’re very rare and only account for about 2-5% of all brain tumors. If you’re in the New Jersey area, find the treatment you deserve and contact the ANS team today.
What are Craniopharyngiomas?
There are two main types of craniopharyngiomas:
- Adamantinomatous craniopharyngiomas, or cystic tumors most commonly occurring in children under age 16
- Papillary craniopharyngiomas, or solid tumors most often found in adults over the age of 45
Regardless of the type, craniopharyngiomas are usually located near the pituitary gland, which helps regulate the body’s hormones. These tumors grow slowly, but they can sometimes become quite large. It’s common for them to affect the pituitary stalk, the third ventricle, the hypothalamus and the optic nerves.
What are the Symptoms?
As the tumor grows and puts pressure on parts of the brain, a patient may have the following symptoms:
- Hormone deficiency
- Development delay
- Short stature
- Inability to regulate water balance
- Other hormonal problems
- Vision problems, such as partial blindness
How is it Diagnosed?
A range of different tests are used to diagnose a craniopharyngioma. Doctors will perform a physical exam, assess the symptoms and order a CT or MRI scan of the brain. The patient may also have an endocrine assessment, which involves special blood tests to check hormone levels. An eye exam can also help determine how the tumor is affecting the patient’s vision.
How is it Treated?
Even though the tumor is benign, it’s best to have it removed. However, surgery can be difficult due to the location of the tumor. It needs to be removed very carefully so that the surrounding parts of the brain are not damaged. Usually, surgeons can successfully remove all or part of the craniopharyngioma safely.
To do this, ANS may perform a minimally-invasive procedure called endoscopic surgery. During this surgery, doctors access the tumor via the sinuses. They might also decide on another skull base technique based on the location and nature of the tumor. After surgery, radiation therapy and radiosurgery are often used to target residual tumor.
Unfortunately, craniopharyngiomas are likely to come back. But procedures like CyberKnife and Gamma Knife surgery can help eliminate them. It’s also common for this tumor to cause hydrocephalus in the brain, but doctors can place a shunt to help drain excess fluid.