What is a skull base tumor?

What is a skull base tumor?

The skull base consists of several bones that form the base of the head and the bony ridge behind the eyes and the nose. Most skull base tumors grow inside the skull, but some form on the outside. These tumors primarily grow inside the skull but occasionally can grow outside too. They can be either primary or secondary (metastatic) tumors depending on the place of origin.

What are the symptoms of a Skull Base Tumor?

The symptoms of skull base tumors appear slowly and only when the tumors have grown large and have started causing pressure on vital structures in the brain. Symptoms depend on the type, location and size of the tumor.

Most common symptoms include

Worsening headache
Shortness of breath
Difficulty breathing
Altered sense of smell
Altered sense of smell
Blurred or double vision
Blurred or double vision
Trouble swallowing
Trouble Swallowing
Hearing loss
Hearing Loss
Difficulty with balance
Loss of Balance
Nausea and vomiting
memory loss
Memory Loss
Numb or weak face arms or legs
Pain or numbness or weakness in the face
Loss of consciousness
Recurrent sinus problems
Recurrent sinus problems
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

There are no obvious causes for the development of skull base tumors.

Risk factors may include

  • Previous exposure of the head to radiation therapy
  • Exposure to chemicals like vinyl chloride, arsenic and herbicides
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • Smoking and consumption of alcohol

Diagnosis of skull base tumors is very peculiar and requires thorough examination of the patient along with diagnostic tests.

The various diagnostic tests that are conducted

  • A physical examination of the patient including patient’s symptoms, personal and family health history
  • A neurological examination to check vision, hearing, balance, coordination, reflexes and ability to think and remember.
  • Imaging of the brain is also done:
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scan)
    • A bone scan
    • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans

The treatment for skull base tumors depends upon the tumor location, type and general health of the patient. It may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or observation.