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Skull Base Tumors Treatment and Diagnosis


Many brain tumors, pituitary tumors, acoustic neuromas, meningioma, and other types of tumors affect the skull base. These are known as skull base tumors. The skull base tumors grow primarily inside the skull but occasionally can grow outside too . They can be primary or secondary depending upon their place of origin.

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Causes and risk factors for skull base tumors:

Although there is no exact cause of skull base tumor but there are certain risk factors that increase the chance of developing a skull base tumor like:

  • Previous radiation therapy to the head
  • Exposure to chemicals like vinyl chloride, arsenic and herbicides
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol

Types of Skull Base Tumors and Conditions

 Skull base tumors can be classified according to their location in the skull base or according to the type of tumor.  

According to location of skull base tumors:

Tumor in the anterior compartment of the skull base (anterior cranial fossa), that includes the eye sockets and sinuses:

  • Meningioma
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma
  • Paranasal sinus cancer

Tumor in the central compartment of the skull base (middle cranial fossa), that includes the pituitary gland:

  • Pituitary adenomas
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Rathke’s cleft cyst

Tumor in the posterior compartment of the skull base (posterior cranial fossa):

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Chordoma
  • Epidermoid tumor
  • Meningioma

Signs and Symptoms of Skull Base Brain Tumors

The symptoms of skull base tumors appear slowly and appear only when the tumor grows large and cause pressure on vital structures in the brain. Symptoms specifically depend on the type, location and size of the tumor. Most common symptoms of skull base tumors and conditions include:

  • Headaches
  • Pain or numbness or weakness in the face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recurrent sinus problems
  • Altered sense of smell
  • Blurred or double or loss of vision
  • Trouble swallowing and frequent choking
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Memory loss

Diagnosis of a Skull Base Tumor

Diagnosis of skull base tumors is very peculiar and requires thorough examination of the patient along with diagnostic tests:  

  • A physical examination of the patient including patient's symptoms, and personal and family health history.
  • A neurological examination to check vision, hearing, balance, coordination, reflexes and ability to think and remember.
  • Imaging of the brain:
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan)
    • A bone scan
    • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans

Treatment for Skull Base Tumors

Treatment for skull base tumors depends upon tumor location, type and general health of the patient. It may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or observation. The treatment for a skull base tumor or condition depends on many factors, including:

Authored by Dr. Shyam Sundar K

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Dr. Shyam Sundar K

Dr. Shyam Sundar K is an eminent name in the field of neurology. He is one of the best neurosurgeon in Chennai, Tamil Nadu

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