Craniopharyngioma is a specific kind of tumor on the brain that exists most frequently in children. However, Craniopharyngioma also shows in men and woman who are often over the age of 50.  This type of tumor develops from embryonic cells of the pituitary gland. These tumors are not malignant but can cause problems for the patient due to the mass encroaching on the optic nerves, the pituitary glands, as well as the pituitary stalk and the brain itself.


The tumors themselves are grow relatively slowly and can vary in formation. Some parts of the tumor may have calcium deposits or bone formations, but they can also have fluid inside them as well and can reach a relatively large size. 

The symptoms differ mostly depending on where the tumor is located and also its size.

Often times Craniopharyngioma will go unnoticed until the tumor begins to adhere to these other structures inside the cranium. The tumor can increase pressure on the brain causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, and also loss of balance. If the tumor puts pressure on the pituitary stalk or reaches the hypothalamus it can cause diabetes insipidus, which can result in obesity. This can also cause hormonal changes, which may cause extreme thirst, an abnormal need to urinate, and also slow growth and development.


If the tumor reaches an optic nerve or an optic chasm it may bring forth a decrease in vision, most frequently affecting the peripheral vision.


Patients should have their full medical history reviewed followed by a complete neurological examination. Next, radiological imaging is necessary to determine the size and location of the Craniopharyngioma. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans both need to be used with and without intravenous contrast to best identify the tumors and to determine the best treatment options.


Conventionally, surgery is the first step in eliminating the tumor, however some patients may receive chemotherapy along with radiation therapy. Surgery is used to completely remove the tumor while trying to restore, if not preserve, visual and brain function. If the tumor cannot be entirely removed in surgery then radiation and chemotherapy will be used as well to further reduce or control the outstanding tumor. In the case of young children, chemotherapy and radiation therapy is not used to due to the side effects.


There are numerous factors that can determine the outcome of each patient’s case. However, overall the prognosis of those diagnosed with Craniopharyngioma is good, especially since the tumors are histologically benign. The best case scenario is that in which the tumor is completely removed in surgery, the patient does not need radiation or chemotherapy, and there are no lasting neurological consequences or hormonal effects. Early diagnosis and treatment decreases the chance of complications.  

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