Craniopharyngiomas are relatively rare tumors located near or in the pituitary gland of the brain. They are among the growths known as skull base tumors. At Columbia’s Skull Base Tumor Center, our neurosurgeons specialize in providing care for patients with craniopharyngiomas. These tumors can be treated surgically, with craniotomy or endoscopic craniopharyngioma surgery. In addition, the treatment plan may include shunt placement, radiation therapy and/or medication.
The pituitary is a small gland behind the eyes on the underside of the brain. It secretes several hormones. Near the pituitary is the hypothalamus, which also produces hormones. The gap between the pituitary and hypothalamus is bridged by the pituitary stalk. The pituitary stalk is where craniopharyngiomas begin growing; later, they tend to expand into the neighboring pituitary and hypothalamus.
A craniopharyngioma is a type of skull base tumor—a growth on the base of the skull. Craniopharyngiomas typically grow slowly and are benign. Even so, they can cause harm by pressing on and interfering with the functions of adjoining structures. As a craniopharyngioma grows, it may exert pressure on the pituitary, the hypothalamus or the optic nerve. By the time the tumor produces symptoms, it is often quite large. Craniopharyngiomas can grow back after initial treatment and then must be treated again.
Despite these challenges, patients with craniopharyngiomas have a good chance of recovery.
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