If a physician suspects that a patient has a skull base tumor, he or she will likely begin the diagnostic process by performing a physical examination. This exam may include tests for vision, hearing, coordination, balance, reflexes and memory. If the exam results suggest the presence of a skull base tumor, the physician may perform the following diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- Imaging tests – Physicians often use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and computed tomography (CT) scans to diagnose skull base tumors. They may also use positron emission tomography (PET) scans to determine the type of skull base tumor present and whether it’s cancerous, as well as angiograms to more closely study the surrounding blood vessels.
- Endoscopies – By inserting a long, thin tube with an attached light and camera, physicians can view structures within the body without the need for surgery. During a nasal endoscopy, for instance, a physician can examine the nasal cavity and sinuses, which may be helpful when a patient is experiencing nosebleeds or difficulty breathing.
- Biopsies – In most cases, the diagnosis is based on imaging tests and confirmation or definitive diagnosis only happens after a sample is collected during surgery for tumor resection. In some cases, a biopsy can be performed in suspicious lesions during a nasal endoscopy. A physician may collect a small sample of the tumor tissue and send it to a laboratory, where it will be tested by a pathologist and it may prove to be a skull base tumor. If a physician finds a skull base tumor, he or she may need to collect a small sample of the tumor tissue and send it to a laboratory, where it will be tested by a pathologist. In some cases, a biopsy can be performed during an endoscopy; in others, a physician may perform surgery to collect the sample.
Diagnosing skull base tumors at Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt Cancer Center is pleased to offer diagnostic testing services for skull base tumors. Our Neuro-Oncology Program includes neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuropathologists, medical oncologists and other specialists, all of whom work together to provide our patients with the comprehensive, individualized treatment we’ve come to be known for.
Medically reviewed by Andre Beer Furlan, MD, PhD, skull base and endovascular neurosurgeon.