Craniopharyngioma | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine

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Craniopharyngioma

Overview and Facts about Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngioma is a benign, or noncancerous, tumor that grows near the brain’s pituitary gland, which is responsible for releasing hormones needed for controlling many of your body's functions. These tumors occur most often in children and older adults. If left untreated, this tumor can affect your pituitary gland's function.

Signs and Symptoms of Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngioma causes increased pressure on the brain. The location of the tumor, its size, and the structures it affects will lead to different signs and symptoms including: 

  • Confusion
  • Delayed puberty​
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Lethargy
  • Obesity
  • Sleeping disturbances
  • Stunted growth
  • Weight gain

Over time, increased pressure from the craniopharyngioma may result in headaches, nausea, vomiting and balance difficulties, all of which are often consequences of hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain that increases pressure).

Causes and Risk Factors of Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngioma is a rare brain tumor with no understood cause, although some researchers suspect these tumors are caused by genetics and begin in the womb as a result of abnormal cell development.

Tests and Diagnosis of Craniopharyngioma

If your doctor suspects you have a brain tumor, they will refer you to a neurologist. The neurologist will want to perform a neurological exam to check functions such as your balance, vision and hearing. They will also ask about your family and personal medical history.

Tests for craniopharyngioma include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate the tumor's size and placement, or computerized tomography (CT). Your neurologist may also take a biopsy, or a small sample of the abnormal tissue, before diagnosing craniopharyngioma.

Treatment and Care of Craniopharyngioma

If you are diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, your treatment will depend on the placement and severity of the tumor. In many cases, neurosurgery is recommended to remove all or part of the tumor before it grows larger and affects surrounding structures. This will be performed by a neurosurgeon and a team of neurosurgery specialists.