Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngiomas are benign tumors that form in the base of your skull near your pituitary gland. They’re most common in children, but also occur in adults. A craniopharyngioma is usually part solid mass and part fluid-filled cyst. Although it isn’t cancer and won’t spread to other parts of your body, it can grow and may cause problems.

Overview

Symptoms

Craniopharyngioma symptoms may include:

  • Balance problems
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision problems

If it becomes large enough, a craniopharyngioma can press on parts of your brain, including your pituitary gland and your optic (vision) nerves. If this happens, symptoms could include: 

  • Adrenal failure, which causes dizziness, sleepiness, muscle weakness, weight loss and pain in your stomach 
  • Decreased sexual drive, to the point that men may become impotent and women may stop getting their period
  • Delayed puberty and stunted growth in children
  • Excessive thirst and urination, which doctors call “diabetes insipidus”
  • Hypothyroidism, which causes weight gain, fatigue, constipation and an inability to tolerate cold temperatures
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • Decreased vision, including poor peripheral vision

Diagnosis

You’ll start by meeting with your doctor, who will examine you and discuss your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest imaging tests like an MRI or a CT scan, as well as a neurological exam to check your vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes. 

Your doctor might refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) or a gland specialist (endocrinologist) to make sure that you’re not having vision or hormone problems.

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Treatment Options

Surgery is the most common treatment for a craniopharyngioma. At Aurora, we specialize in minimally invasive surgery techniques, such as the Expanded Endonasal Approach (EEA), which involves a shorter hospital stay, quicker healing time and fewer scars than traditional brain surgery.

Radiation therapy, including CyberKnife® radiosurgery, may be recommended if the tumor is too close to your brain to remove it surgically. CyberKnife® radiosurgery is a non-invasive, robotic system that delivers high-dose radiation therapy to tumors with pinpoint accuracy. Cyberknife is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery.

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