Craniopharyngiomas Treatment Information

Craniopharyngiomas are benign tumors that most commonly occur in children ages 5 to 14. However, adults over the age of 50 are also at risk. These tumors grow near the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, two structures of the brain that control the production and release of hormones. While craniopharyngiomas are benign and cannot spread to other parts of the body, these tumors can affect the function of the pituitary gland and other nearby structures of the brain, such as the optic nerve, as they grow. This is why surgery to remove the tumor is often the recommended course of action, followed by radiation therapy.

Symptoms of craniopharyngiomas

Many times, patients won’t report symptoms of craniopharyngiomas until the tumor has grown large enough to increase pressure on the brain, most specifically on the pituitary gland and optic nerve. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Loss of vision in one eye
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Excess thirst and urination
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Slow growth in children

Diagnosing craniopharyngiomas

Craniopharyngiomas are identified using a variety of diagnostic measures. These include:

  • Blood tests or urinalysis. This can indicate if there is a hormone imbalance that could be due to a tumor pressing on the pituitary gland.
  • MRIs and CT scans. These imaging tests can produce detailed images of the brain to determine if a craniopharyngioma is present. (It can also rule out other pituitary tumors.)
  • Biopsies. A physician will use a needle to remove a small piece of tissue from the brain that will then be examined under a microscope to determine if it contains tumor cells.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s approach to treating craniopharyngiomas

Moffitt Cancer Center can diagnose and treat craniopharyngiomas and other skull base tumors within our Neuro-Oncology Program. Our patients are treated by some of the top specialists in their fields who take pride in providing individualized treatment plans and highly specialized service. Our specialists will talk to you about your treatment options, which may involve surgery and possibly radiation therapy as well. Endocrinologists will be available to talk to you and your family about what to expect after treatment, as your body’s hormone production may be permanently affected by the tumor and subsequent treatment.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology.

If you have questions about craniopharyngiomas or would like to schedule a consultation at Moffitt Cancer Center, please reach out today. You can call us at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online, and we’ll be in touch shortly.