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Craniopharyngiomas

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Craniopharyngiomas are noncancerous (benign) brain tumors that usually aren’t detected until they grow and start putting pressure on surrounding areas. By the time these lesions are diagnosed, they are typically quite large. Although these tumors are considered benign, craniopharyngiomas can cause significant symptoms, including hormonal imbalance, visual loss, headaches and hydrocephalus.

What are craniopharyngiomas?

Craniopharyngiomas are tumors that form early in life during the embryonic stages of development. These tumors are located along the undersurface of the brain near the pituitary gland, a pea-sized organ that controls other glands and hormones. They are rare and usually grow slowly. It’s not known why they occur.

Who develops craniopharyngiomas?

These tumors are more common in children between the ages of 5 and 10. Some do occur later in adulthood or after the age of 50.

What are the symptoms of craniopharyngiomas?

Symptoms depend on where the tumor is located and are triggered by three main factors: pressure on the brain, disruption of the pituitary gland’s function and damage to the optic nerve. Symptoms include:

  • balance problems
  • behavioral/learning problems
  • excessive thirst and urination
  • headaches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stunted growth
  • vision problems (often permanent and may worsen after tumor is removed surgically)

How are craniopharyngiomas diagnosed?

Computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endocrine hormone evaluations and neurological exams are commonly performed.

How are craniopharyngiomas treated?

Surgery to remove the tumor, stereotactic radiosurgery (such as Gamma Knife treatment offered at The Valley Hospital Gamma Knife Center), radiation therapy or a combination of treatments may be used, especially in those cases in which surgery alone cannot remove a tumor.

Call the Gamma Knife Center at 201-634-5677 or complete the contact form for more information or to set up a consultation.

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