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Childhood Craniopharyngioma Treatment

General Information About Childhood Craniopharyngioma

Childhood craniopharyngiomas are benign brain tumors found near the pituitary gland.

Childhood craniopharyngiomas are rare tumors usually found near the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ at the bottom of the brain that controls other glands) and the hypothalamus (a small cone-shaped organ connected to the pituitary gland by nerves).


Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.
Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.

Craniopharyngiomas are usually part solid mass and part fluid-filled cyst. They are benign (not cancer) and do not spread to distant parts of the brain or to other parts of the body. However, they may grow and press on parts of the brain or other nearby areas, including the pituitary gland, the optic chiasm, optic nerves, and fluid-filled spaces in the brain. Many functions including hormone making, growth, vision, and normal working of the brain may be affected. Benign brain tumors need treatment.

This summary discusses the treatment of primary brain tumors (tumors that begin in the brain). Treatment for metastatic brain tumors, which are tumors formed by cancer cells that begin in other parts of the body and spread to the brain, is not discussed in this summary. See the PDQ treatment summary on Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Treatment Overview for information about the different types of childhood brain and spinal cord tumors.

Brain tumors can occur in both children and adults; however, treatment for children may be different than treatment for adults. (See the PDQ summary on Adult Brain Tumors for more information.)

There are no known risk factors for childhood craniopharyngioma.

Craniopharyngiomas are rare in children younger than 2 years of age and are most often diagnosed in children aged 5 to 14 years. It is not known what causes these tumors to form.

Possible signs of childhood craniopharyngioma include vision changes and slow growth.

These and other symptoms may be caused by craniopharyngiomas. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

Tests that examine the brain, vision, and hormone levels are used to detect (find) childhood craniopharyngiomas.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Childhood craniopharyngiomas are diagnosed and may be removed in the same surgery.

Doctors may diagnose a craniopharyngioma based on where the tumor is in the brain and how it looks on a CT scan or MRI. Sometimes a biopsy is required to find out the type of tumor. The biopsy is done during surgery, and a tissue sample is removed, using one of the following procedures:

A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for tumor cells. If tumor cells are found, the doctor may remove as much tumor as safely possible during the same surgery.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following: