Skip to main content

Skull Base Tumors

< Head, Neck and Skin Cancer

Skull Base Tumors

About Skull Base Tumors

The brain originates the most crucial functions of the body — everything from muscle movement to eating, breathing, feeling pain and emotion. Skull base tumors can affect nearly every one of these functions in the brain. These tumors are rare, and cancerous skull base tumors are even less common.

Skull base tumors can begin in the base of skull or can originate in another part of the body and spread to the base of the skull. Regardless of where they begin, the tumor grows close to crucial areas of the brain and can be life threatening.

Depending on the exact location of the tumor, doctors classify and treat the tumor differently. Skull base tumors include these kinds of tumors:

  • Clival chordomas
  • Craniopharyngiomas
  • Meningiomas (tumors on the outer covering of the brain)
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Sinus or nasal tumors
  • Skull bone tumors

Each specific kind of tumor causes different symptoms and requires different treatment, but due to the sensitive location of the skull base tumors deep within the brain, these growths are generally difficult to treat.


Depending on the specific location, symptoms and signs of skull base tumors can be different. All of the symptoms seem to begin slowly and gradually get worse over time.
These are some of the symptoms and signs of skull base tumors according to the specific type of tumor:

  • Acromegaly
  • Blurry/double vision
  • Bulging eyes
  • Changes in mental status
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Difficulty opening mouth
  • Gigantism
  • Headaches
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Irregular problems with menstruation, sex drive or infertility
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of smell
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Nosebleeds
  • Other types of skull base tumors
  • Pain in the ear
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Pressure in the face/sinuses
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Seizures
  • Sinonasal tumors
  • Tearing
  • Trouble breathing through the nose
  • Vision loss
  • Vision problems
  • Weakened bones

Risk Factors

Doctors and researchers do not know the causes of skull base tumors. They have determined that the majority of brain tumors are associated with abnormalities of the genes responsible for cell cycle control. These abnormalities lead to uncontrolled cell growth.

Researchers have found that patients with these certain genetic conditions have a higher risk of developing tumors in the central nervous system:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Retinoblastoma
  • von Hippel-Lindau disease

Studies also suggest that prior radiation therapy to the head for another condition may be one of the causes of skull base tumors and brain tumors. Patients who are chemists or work in oil refineries and rubber manufacturing also have a higher incidence of certain brain tumors.