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Craniopharyngioma: A Rare Brain Tumor Forming From the Pituitary Gland

Craniopharyngioma: A Rare Brain Tumor Forming From the Pituitary Gland
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rare brain tumors

Craniopharyngiomas are rare brain tumors that develops from pituitary gland embryonic tissue. These tumors often grow into the pituitary gland itself or into surrounding tissue. Craniopharyngiomas that are very small may go unnoticed for years, as they do not cause symptoms until they put pressure on surrounding tissue. These tumors are most often found in children between the ages of 5 and 10, but they can also be found in adults.

What Causes A Craniopharyngioma?

The exact cause of a craniopharyngiomia is unknown.

Types of Craniopharyngioma

Adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma

Adamantinomatous craniopharyngiomas are the most common type of craniopharyngioma, accounting for about 90% of all cases. They can be found in both children and adults and manifest as fluid-filled cysts.

Papillary craniopharyngioma

Papillary craniopharyngiomas are very rare and are typically only found in adults. They manifest as solid tumors.


Craniopharyngioma Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Hydrocephalus (build-up of CSF fluid on the brain)
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Myxedema (swelling in the extremities)
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Vision loss
  • Visual disturbances
  • Vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Loss of muscle mass or muscle tone
  • Stunted growth (in children)

Diagnosing Craniopharyngioma

rare brain tumors

Magnetic resonance imaging can reveal a craniopharyngioma.

If your primary care physician suspects you have a craniopharyngioma, they will often refer you to a neurologist for a thorough assessment and diagnostic procedures. The doctor will consider all of your reported symptoms and medical history. They may also order bloodwork to rule out things like thyroid disorders, which can produce some similar symptoms. Diagnostic procedures will likely include CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see if a craniopharyngioma is present.

Treating Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngiomas often require surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on the type of craniopharyngioma, a neurosurgeon will either drain it through an intracranial catheter or, for solid tumors, order several rounds of radiation therapy to shrink the tumor. Patients may also be prescribed steroids to reduce any intracranial swelling.

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