Brain tumor treatment options depend on the type of brain tumor you have, as well as its size and location. At the Center for Skull Base Surgery our specialists address the following tumors and medical conditions:
The pituitary gland is an endocrine - or hormone producing - gland. It is often referred to as the “master gland” even though it’s only about the size of a green pea! It’s small but powerful; it regulates many of your body’s most important glands including the ovaries, the testes, and the adrenals. It’s found at the base of the brain right behind the bridge of your nose. If you have a tumor growing in or around your pituitary gland, it won’t be able to work properly with the hypothalamus to monitor and control many of your bodily functions including temperature, blood pressure, reproduction, and metabolism.
A Meningioma is a tumor of the meninges - the tissues that forms a protective layer around the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas are usually (90%) benign and very slow growing. Often they require no treatment at all except for watchful waiting - which is another way to say observation and caution. Because they grow in and around the cranial nerves, they can affect facial functions by putting pressure on other parts of the brain. This can cause headaches, vision problems, impair the sensory functions of taste and smell, and other symptoms. When this occurs, surgery is often necessary.
An acoustic neuroma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor located on the main nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain. This vestibular cochlear nerve feeds other nerves that affect your balance and your hearing. While they are typically small and slow-growing, an acoustic neuroma, also called a vestibular schwannoma, can grow quickly. In this case, the pressure it puts on that main nerve can lead to vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, headaches and other less common symptoms. Removal of larger or fast-growing tumors is often suggested to prevent permanent nerve damage.
Epidermoid tumors or cysts are non-cancerous; they’re benign. They consist of a thin outer layer - or covering - an inner mix of dead skin cells, fatty acids, and oils. They’re usually slow growing and can be found in many areas of the body. But, the ones growing in your brain, although they are benign, can put pressure on the brain stem, cranial nerves and the pituitary area. That can cause a variety of symptoms including poor balance and vision problems. We try to completely remove both layers of the cyst during surgery to prevent it from growing back.
Glomus tumors are rare growths usually located within the ear. They may occasionally be found behind the eye socket, in the larynx, or other adjacent structures. Even though they are vascular, meaning they have a very good blood supply, they’re slow growing. Symptoms may include hearing loss, ringing of the ears, dizziness, earaches and headaches. Occasionally, they can cause difficulties with swallowing or even facial paralysis.
Cholesterol granulomas are benign cysts, lesions or aggregations of cells filled with fluid, fat and cholesterol crystals. They are often prone to bleeding. They can occur in many parts of the body, but when they occur in the ear, they can cause hearing loss. If they are not removed (in some cases) they can cause permanent hearing loss.
Chondrosarcomas are tumors that can arise in any bone - usually the pelvis and extremities. They rarely occur in the skull base - only about 5% of the time, in fact, they’re made up of the same types of cells that make cartilage in the skull. In most cases, they grow very slowly. But, because they invade the bones at the base of the skull, when they grow, they can compress adjacent nerves which can cause blurred vision, headaches, hearing loss, dizziness, nausea, face tingling, facial paralysis, and other symptoms.
Facial Nerve Schwannomas or Hemangiomas
Facial Nerve Tumors develop on the facial nerve itself. Because this nerve serves several important functions including governing the salivary and tear glands, taste, and above all, the facial muscles, a tumor along the facial nerve - even a benign tumor - can cause many serious symptoms including hearing loss and facial paralysis. Facial nerve tumors, the most common being geniculate ganglion hemangiomas and schwannomas
Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) Leaks
Cerebral spinal fluid leaks occur when there are holes in the dura. Those are layers that protect the spinal cord and brain while keeping in the cerebrospinal fluid. The leak can occur as a result of head trauma, after surgeries in and around the brain, or it can occur spontaneously. Our bodies continually make CSF - but the leak can cause disabling headaches, nausea, fatigue, drainage from the nose, a salty or metallic taste in the mouth, dizziness, and other symptoms. CSF leaks need to be identified and repaired because they represent a possible source or channel for bacteria to get back to the brain. This could lead to a brain infection - also called meningitis. This is a life-threatening condition.