Skull Base Tumors: Types, Symptoms, and Surgery


Skull base tumors are diverse growths of the tissues at the base of the skull, it is complicated because they are located at the point where there are so many nerves and blood vessels located at the origin of the skull. Sometimes these are cancerous and other times they are benign tumors.

At the base of the skull, there are many complex structures are found and that is why treatment is also challenging for doctors. Metastatic or malignant tumors spread in the whole body through the stream and benign remain confined to their place.

What are Skull Base Tumors?

Skull base tumor grows inside the skull and can be malignant and benign, primary tumor grows from the skull base. There are many types of skull base tumors like Meningioma, Olfactory Neuroblastoma, and Paranasal Sinus Cancer. They are different based on location, as anterior cranial fossa and middle cranial fossa.

Types of Skull Base Tumors

Skull base tumors are different based on location, There are eight types of skull base tumors.

Chorodomas– They develop from remnants of Notochord (a structure in the fetal development stage) and they are rare tumors and also can occur in the Clivus or sacrum region.

Meningioma – These are benign tumors and develop from the brain meanings ( protective layer of the brain) They have a low growth rate but can affect the mind.

Pituitary Adenomas – The pituitary is the master gland of the human body and Adenomas can develop from the pituitary, causing a wide range of symptoms. They can be malignant or benign according to their origin.

Schwannomas – Nerve cells have a cover around them, that is called the myelin sheath, Schwann cells form a protective layer around the myelin sheath. These types of tumors can develop from the Schwann cells. And they affect cranial nerves like the vestibulocochlear nerve.

Carniyopharyngiomas – These are non-cancerous tumors found near the pituitary gland, They can cause hormonal imbalance and are common in children and adolescents.

Olfactory Neuroblastoma – It is a rare kind of malignant tumor and it originates from the upper part of the nasal chamber, It can extend up to the skull base. It is a malignant tumor and causes symptoms like nasal congestion and change in olfactory functions.

Glomus Jugular Tumors – There is a small opening at the base of the skull that is called a jugular foramen, These tumors develop from the glomus cells of the jugular foramen.

Skull Base Metastases – This kind of cancer spreads from the bloodstream and they are originated somewhere else in the body but forms at the skull base because of metastasis.

Skull base tumor symptoms

There are different types of symptoms of skull base tumor and they vary a lot because of type, rate of growth, and size of cells.

  • If there is an intracranial tumor then the headache will be worsened with time.
  • Tumors related to the optic nerves can lead to vision problems and even vision loss temporary or permanent depending on the cells.
  • Facial tumors mostly which occur in the prefrontal cortex cause facial numbness and pain.
  • Difficulty in swallowing and pain in the neck region are seen in the case of thyroid tumors and upper neck tumors. Most of the time they are malignant tumors.
  • If the auditory nerve is affected by a tumor then there are chances of hearing loss.
  • Nasal congestion and frequent nosebleeds are seen in the case of olfactory tumors.
  • Hormonal imbalance is a common problem in the pituitary gland.
  • Tumors that affect vocal cords cause problems in voice and difficulty in swallowing food.

Skull Base Surgery

However, it is a crucial component of treating skull base tumors with surgery but it depends on the size and location of the tumor. Here you can see some common surgeries for treating skull base tumors.

Trans-sphenoidal Surgery – It is a complicated surgery and is used to remove tumors of the pituitary gland and near to it. It is done with the help of endoscopy through nostrils but external incision is minimized with the help of this surgery.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery – It is used for small tumors or remnants of any tumor, It is not a surgery it is delivering radiation beams to the inoperable tumors

Trans-nasal endoscopic surgery – It is slightly different from trans-sphenoidal and it is and it is easy to cope with skull base tumors with the help of endoscopy. Less invasive and has no external incision in this surgery and it is able to remove most of the small tumors in the skull base region.

Trans-oral Surgery – This method is used for tumors that are located at the throat or upper neck region. There is extra safety required for the important tissue like vocal cords and surgery is done from the mouth.

Craniotomy – This is a very complicated survey and is done after removing the bone flap inner to the skull. It is done to access or remove the tumor from the inner parts of the skull. There is a need for an external incision in the scalp and later bone flap is fixed with secured screws and plates.

Combined Surgery or Multiple Approach – There are some complex skull base tumors and they are tough to remove from one kind of treatment. There are multiple approaches that are used for removing these skull base tumors. Trans-sphenoidal and trans-cranial surgery are combined most of the time to treat skull base tumors.

All kinds of survival treatments are irreplaceable with medications and doctors treat them with surgery as a terminal option.


There are many kinds of skull base tumors and their recovery is based on the location and types of tissue in which they are found. There are also risks related to their surgery, and the doctor suggests surgery in extreme conditions. Symptoms of skull base tumors include discomfort of associated tissues. If any symptoms match the above-mentioned then go to Neuro ENT Specialist Dr. Simple Bhadania, she will guide you further regarding the surgical procedure of the skull base tumors.