Learn more about skull base tumors and how they are treated.
Skull base tumors are located between the brain and the underlying skull. These tumors are usually not “brain tumors” but may be tumors from the coverings of the brain (meningiomas) or tumors of the covering of nerves (schwannomas) among others. Diagnosis and treatment of skull base tumors requires a high level of expertise and experience.
These tumors can affect people of any age. The symptoms that accompany skull base tumors depend on their size and location inside of the skull.
Skull base tumors invite a host of symptoms that alter the manner in which you function on a daily basis. Some of the most prominent symptoms of these tumors are:
- Changes in hearing
- Double vision
- Hearing a “whooshing” sound
- Partial or total loss of hearing
- Difficulties swallowing or voice changes
- Cognitive or personality changes
- Facial paralysis or facial numbness (tingling or loss of sensation)
These symptoms arise from the tumors compressing the lining of the skull and structures within the brain itself.
Types of Skull Base Tumors
Skull base tumors come in several different forms, all of which can impact different segments of the population and be accompanied by different symptoms. The types of skull base tumors are:
- Glomus: Glomus skull base tumors are located around the jugular vein and tympanic membrane. They grow slowly and expand as they destroy bone around the skull base. As they expand these tumors invade structures or the nerves around the skull base. These can result in voice problems, problems with swallowing, facial nerve damage, hearing loss, imbalance, among others.
- Meningiomas: Meningiomas grow in the linings of the brain. They are typically benign but can be malignant in some instances. They can grow and spread quickly.
- Schwannomas: Schwannomas are tumors of the coverings of the nerves. Depending on their nerve of origin, the will cause different symptoms such as facial paralysis, imbalance or hearing loss, voice or swallowing issues, among others.
- Chordomas: Chordomas are most often found in men between the ages of 20 to 40. They grow from remaining embryonic cells on the outside of the dural covering of the brain. These skull base tumors are more difficult to treat than others as they occur in the midline.
- Chondrosarcomas: Chondrosarcomas are a rare type of skull base tumor and which can grow in the petrous apex of the temporal bone. They can destroy the bony structures of the skull and brain and grow slowly.
Skull Base Tumor Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Skull base tumors are typically diagnosed with computed tomography or MRI technology. CT and MRI tests allow doctors to determine the size, and spread of these growths.
The treatment of skull base tumors is best performed by a skull base ear surgeon (neurotologist) and a skull base neurosurgeon. An experienced skull base team can determine the best method of treatment. Treatment can consist of observation, surgery, focused radiation (CyberKnife or GammaKnife) or a combination of surgery and radiation.