A craniopharyngioma is a localized and benign (noncancerous) tumor that arises from the small nests of cells in the sellar region of the brain, near the pituitary gland. They can be either solid tumors or just cysts and often involve the third ventricle, optic nerve, and pituitary gland.

They can be adamantinomatous (ordinary tumor) or papillary craniopharyngioma. Adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma are less solid and occur in children while papillary craniopharyngioma are solid tumor that occurs in adults.

Facts about Craniopharyngioma 

  • 2-5% of pituitary tumors are craniopharyngioma
  • 5-10% of all childhood brain tumors are craniopharyngioma
  • Most commonly found in children, teenagers (up to age 14), and adults older than 50
  • More common in African-American patients
  • Boys and girls are equally affected

Cause of Craniopharyngioma

As in case of most of the tumors, the exact cause of craniopharyngioma is also not known.

Symptoms of Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngioma becomes symptomatic when it exerts pressure on the nerves, blood vessels or parts of the brain around the pituitary gland. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Delayed development
  • Learning problems
  • Mood swings or behaviour changes
  • Confusion
  • Disrupting hormone production by the pituitary gland
  • Hormonal imbalance can lead to excessive thirst, excessive urination, and stunted growth
  • Weight change (obesity)
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Changes in vision
  • Impaired vision
  • Swollen optic nerve

Diagnosis of Craniopharyngioma:

Diagnosis of craniopharyngioma requires following examination:

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Blood and urine tests to measure hormone levels
  • MRI of the area surrounding the pituitary gland
  • CT scan of the brain and pituitary gland
  • Neurological examination

Treatment for Craniopharyngioma:

Treatment of craniopharyngioma is done with an aim to reduce pressure on adjoining structures and improve patient symptoms. It may include the following:

  • Surgical removal of the tumor, including a procedure called orbitozygomatic craniotomy
  • Radiosurgery or stereotactic radiotherapy
  • Hormonal replacement therapy