What are Skull-Base Tumors?
Skull-base tumors consist of a group of relatively rare tumors that start at, or extend into, the bottom of the skull. Some are benign (non-cancerous), while others can be malignant (cancerous). Even the non-cancerous tumors, however, can cause health problems and require treatment. Common types of skull-base tumors include:
- Meningiomas – A meningeal tumor, also called a meningioma, forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord). It can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells. A meningioma is most common in adults.
- Schwannomas – Schwannomas are also called neuromas, neurinomas and neurilemomas. They almost always start in the sensory nerves. The most common form starts in the “vestibular” nerve and is known as a vestibular schwannoma or acoustic neuroma. It is usually benign.
- Chordomas – These slow-growing tumors are located in front of the brainstem. Although only 10 percent of chordomas are cancerous, the benign version can invade nearby structures, causing problems that may require treatment.
- Glomus Tumors – These benign tumors start in the area behind the ear drum or around the jugular vein (which carries blood from the brain to the heart). They are slow-growing and rare, but in some cases can destroy the inner ear and/or cause problems with swallowing and the voice.
- Chondrosarcomas – This is another type of rare, slow-growing skull-base tumor.
What is the treatment?
Surgery is the most common treatment for skull-base tumors, but radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also be used – sometimes on their own but also combined with surgery. With surgery, a surgeon may perform traditional open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. The method often depends on the type of tumor and/or its location.