What is Craniopharyngioma?

A Craniopharyngioma is a type of benign brain tumour located near the pituitary gland.  Craniopharyngiomas consist of a combination of half solid mass and half fluid. While not cancerous, they can grow and cause significant problems for other parts of the brain, affecting certain functioning.

Craniopharyngiomas are more often found in children but can also be found in adults in their 50’s and 60’s.

What are the Symptoms of Craniopharyngioma?

Some of the symptoms of a Craniopharayngioma found in children could include:

  • Headaches, including morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting.
  • Blurred vision
  • Balance issues such as vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Increased frequencies in urination and/or thirst
  • Change in energy level
  • Fatigue
  • Personality or behavioral changes
  • Slow growth
  • Hearing loss
  • Seemingly unexplainable weight gain

Craniopharyngioma Causes

Craniopharyngioma are rare, slow-growing brain tumors. Usually benign, they tend to form near or around the pituitary gland or the pituitary stalk. The actual cause is not well understood, although there is some evidence that the tumors may actually begin forming during gestation (embryogenesis) from abnormal development of the pituitary gland. Other than this hypothesis, there really is very little understanding as to causes or contributing factors to the development of this condition.

Craniopharyngioma represent less than 5% of all pituitary brain tumors. They generally occur in two groups. Children can develop the tumors between the ages of 5 and 10. They occur less frequently in adults, but if they do, the adult will usually be between 50 and 60. While the tumors themselves are almost always benign, the symptoms they cause can be quite serious. Craniopharyngioma seem to occur equally in men and women.

How is Craniopharyngioma Treated?

Craniopharayngiomas still need to be treated and managed through a proper plan directed by a team of brain specialists and other health professionals.

Treatment includes

Surgery is component of therapy.  The kind of surgery may be difficult for the surgeon to determine at first. Many specialists believe that the main goal should be a total removal of the visible tumor. The rate of success for complete removal alone also ranges anywhere from approximately 70-90%.

If the main goal for Craniopharayngiomas therapy is to have a partial removal of the tumour, then radiation therapy will be considered.  The rate of re-growth of the tumours after radiation therapy is high, in the areas of 70 to 100%.

Proton radiotherapy is a less-common form of radiotherapy that deploys protons instead of x-rays.  Proton radiotherapy can be performed to a patient’s tumor much more efficiently than x-ray therapy.  The side-effects of this treatment are said to be lower in number versus conventional radiation therapy.  Scientific across the globe has concluded proton therapy to be a safe and effective method in treating Craniopharayngioma tumors.

Craniopharyngioma Prevention

Because the cause is not well understood, prevention of the initial development of craniopharyngioma is really impossible. However, effective treatment of the tumor can be essential in preventing recurrences. The tumors have a relatively high rate of recurrence, but complete surgical removal has proven to be more effective in preventing regrowth of the tumor than either a partial resectioning or radiation treatment. Recurrence rates are 0%-17% with surgical removal, while those rates rise to 25%-63% with partial removal and/or radiation treatment. In either case, regular CT scans and MRI post treatment are indicated both to check for a regrowth of the tumor and for hormone deficiencies that can stem from both the tumor itself and from the treatment.

Last Reviewed:
September 19, 2016
Last Updated:
December 11, 2017