Hemangioblastoma | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine

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Overview and Facts about Hemangioblastoma

A hemangioblastoma is a noncancerous tumor that can occur in the brain, spinal cord or back of the eye. It is considered to be a rare neurological disease as it accounts for just two percent  of all brain tumors. These tumors are slow growing and highly treatable.

Signs and Symptoms of Hemangioblastoma

As the tumor grows, it can press on the brain and cause neurological signs and symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Buildup of spinal fluid in the brain
  • Headaches and loss of senses
  • Trouble with balance and coordination
  • Weakness in the legs

If the tumor is situated on the spine, you could also experience:

Causes and Risk Factors of Hemangioblastoma

Most hemangioblastomas happen spontaneously, but doctors say the tumors are linked to a genetic disease called von Hippel-Lindau syndrome about 25 percent of the time. These people usually experience multiple tumors in their brain and spinal cord a few times during their lifetime. These tumors can occur at any age, but it is common for them to show up around the age of 40.

Tests and Diagnosis of Hemangioblastoma

Imaging tests are the primary way doctors diagnose a hemangioblastoma. MRIs and CT scans are the most commonly used imaging tests and are able to provide detailed images of the tumors and any accompanying swelling. An ultrasound may also be used to locate a tumor if one is suspected, but it will not reveal the tumor’s exact location.

Doctors are able to diagnose these tumors as hemangioblastomas as opposed to another form of tumor because of their location and the fact that they tend to have a greater blood supply than other tumors.

Treatment and Care for Hemangioblastoma

Neurological surgery is considered the standard treatment for hemangioblastoma, and the procedure ordinarily cures the condition. Traditional surgery is the usual course of action, but sometimes the tumor can be removed using radiosurgery. This takes about six months to a year and involves utilizing precision high energy x-rays to target the tumor and destroy it.

To ensure there are no complications and that the tumor remains eliminated, patients are usually told to see their neurologist regularly after the procedure.