Craniopharyngiomas are benign, non-cancerous tumors. They have a distinct capsule. There may be both solid and cystic components. These tumors are located in very close position to the pituitary gland and its stalk. As they grow, they may compress nearby structures including the pituitary gland, optic nerves and third ventricle. Craniopharyngiomas tend to occur in children younger than 14 years old or adults greater than 50 years of age.
Signs and symptoms
Craniopharyngiomas grow gradually, and symptoms tend to develop over time. Symptoms are usually related to the pressure that the tumor applies to its nearby structures.
Some of the more common symptoms of a craniopharyngioma may include:
- Excessive urination
- Slow growth in childhood
- Vision changes
- Fatigue (feeling of tiredness or exhaustion)
The exact cause for a craniopharyngioma is not known.
The presence of symptoms often leads to a physician visit. Diagnosis begins with the medical history and physical examination. Other tests are then used to establish the diagnosis and help guide treatment. These may include computerized tomography ( CT ) or magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ) scans of the brain.
A customized treatment plan is put together for you. Sometimes, hormones may need to be replaced following treatment. Treatments may include:
- Surgery is generally the best treatment for a craniopharyngioma. Surgery may be performed through an open craniotomy or a skull base approach, using microscopic or endoscopic techniques. Craniopharyngiomas can be very difficult to resect (remove). Sometimes it is too risky to try to remove the whole tumor. If the resection is subtotal (not complete), the chance for recurrence (re-growth) of the tumor is higher.
- Radiation therapy may also be considered, especially if surgical removal is not complete. There are various methods for delivering radiation to the tumor. If needed, the best one will be chosen for you.
- Targeted therapy can be used in the treatment of some craniopharyngiomas, depending on the presence of specific markers of their gene alteration.