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What is Craniopharyngioma?

Craniopharyngioma is a rare benign tumor that forms near the pituitary gland and hypothalamus at the base of the brain. The slow-growing tumor or cyst can affect the function of the gland that secretes hormones critical to many body functions. Although they are not cancerous, they can cause health problems because of their impact on hormone production and because they put increasing pressure on surrounding nerves. This type of tumor does not spread to other parts of the brain or body. Treatment typically involves surgery. 

Causes of Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngiomas begin to form during the early stages of embryo development in pregnancy. Researchers don’t fully understand why. Children ages 5 to about 10 are most likely to be diagnosed, but adults older than 50 can also develop these tumors.

Symptoms of Craniopharyngioma

Increased fluid in the brain, called hydrocephalus, can cause headaches, nausea, confusion, balance problems, hearing loss, and vision problems. A child’s growth and puberty may be delayed if the tumor compresses the pituitary gland. Patients may also experience changes in mood and behavior.

Diagnosis of Craniopharyngioma

Your doctor will perform a physical exam, blood tests, and appropriate imaging scans. Both blood and urine tests can help indicate hormone imbalances caused by pituitary gland issues.

Treatment of Craniopharyngioma

Surgery is most often recommended for people with craniopharyngioma. Options include an open craniopharyngioma surgery or a minimally invasive craniopharyngioma surgery. The goal is to remove the entire tumor, but that is sometimes not possible to preserve healthy tissue. Radiation or chemotherapy might be used after surgery to remove any remaining tumor pieces. Biologic therapy and hormone therapy may also be needed to replace various hormones no longer produced because of the tumor or treatment.

What you can expect at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences

UTHealth Houston Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. You will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Brain Tumor Types

Acoustic neuroma
Arachnoid Cyst
Brain metastases
Choroid plexus tumor
Facts about brain tumors
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Germ cell tumor
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)
Malignant meningioma
Pituitary adenoma and Cushing’s syndrome
Pituitary tumor
Skull base tumor

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.