Craniopharyngiomas are noncancerous tumors that develop close to the pituitary gland, which is located near the base of the brain. Craniopharyngiomas almost always occur in children 14 years old or younger. Since craniopharyngiomas are noncancerous, they do not spread to other parts of the brain or body. They can, however, continue to grow and cause worsening symptoms. This makes it necessary for children with the condition to undergo treatment as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Craniopharyngioma
The location of craniopharyngiomas can cause a range of symptoms. The symptoms your child experiences often depend on the tumor’s specific location and size. Symptoms can also vary according to the child’s age.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with craniopharyngiomas include:
- Personality changes
- Blindness or other visual disturbances
Craniopharyngiomas can affect how well the pituitary gland functions, which can cause concerning symptoms related to hormone deficiency. Children with craniopharyngiomas may experience growth failure and delayed puberty.
Hormone interruptions can also contribute to symptoms that include:
- Weight gain
- Low blood pressure
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid production)
Your doctor will use imaging technology to gain a better understanding of the symptoms you or your child experience.
Treatments for Craniopharyngioma
Treatments for craniopharyngioma almost always include surgery, so you will need to find an experienced brain tumor surgeon to perform the operation. Brain surgery may sound like a scary possibility, but it is often the best option for removing brain tumors. Fortunately, over 90 percent of children who undergo surgery recover from the tumors. Over 70 percent of patients never experience craniopharyngiomas again. The tumors can return, though, so MRI scans are recommended for a period after undergoing surgery.
Recovering from craniopharyngioma surgery can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Some patients need to take hormone replacements after undergoing surgery. This largely depends on whether the tumors have damaged the pituitary gland.
In some cases, surgery may not remove all of the tumors. When it’s impossible for a brain cancer surgeon to remove the entire tumor safely, he or she may recommend additional treatments.
If total removal of the tumor is not possible, your doctor may want to use radiation therapy to destroy the remaining tumor. The location of these tumor, however, can make it difficult to treat the condition without damaging the pituitary gland. Recent advances in medical technology, however, have made radiation treatment a safer option. Proton therapy (a type of radiation therapy) has been especially useful for treating craniopharyngioma without damaging important parts of the brain.
Radiation therapy may continue for an unspecified amount of time. Your doctor will monitor the presence of the craniopharyngioma to decide when the therapy has been successful. Patients, therefore, can expect to undergo several weeks of radiation therapy. The exact number of treatments, however, will depend on several factors that your doctor can explain.
Why Choose Neurosurgeons of New Jersey?
Unlike some medical groups, Neurosurgeons of New Jersey does not hire general surgeons who perform a wide range of operations. Instead, the group hires specialists who have years of experiencing addressing the needs of specific conditions that appear in the brain or spine.
Neurosurgeons of New Jersey uses the latest in medical technology to give patients the highest level of care possible. This is an especially important consideration for children with craniopharyngiomas. Since these tumors grow near the pituitary gland, you want the most advanced surgical technology to lower the risk of damaging crucial parts of the brain.
One of the most important things about Neurosurgeons of New Jersey is that the group takes a patient-focused approach to developing treatment plans. Your doctor will look carefully at your child’s medical history, talk to you and them about your concerns and offer post-operative services to make sure the recovery process go as smoothly as possible.