Skull Base Tumors |Types | MedStar Health
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The “skull base” is a part of the head. It would be better named the “brain base” because it refers to the gap between the bottom of the brain and the part of the skull directly below it. Within the skull base are all the blood vessels that supply the brain with nutrients and oxygen, as well as nerves that are critical to functions such as vision, smell, hearing, facial movement, and breathing.

Removing tumors that form in this gap requires a high level of experience, technology, knowledge and skill. Cutting-edge technology and minimally invasive techniques must also be used for the same goal.

At MedStar Health, we are committed to achieving the best outcomes for patients who have tumors deep within the brain. Our center features skilled physicians trained in the latest neurosurgical techniques and offers a unique combination of state-of-the-art tools and expertise that makes us one of the most comprehensive centers in the entire country.

Types of skull base tumors

We provide diagnosis and treatment options for the following types of skull base tumors:

Acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) brain tumor that grows on the vestibular cochlear nerve, which influences balance and hearing. The vestibular cochlear nerve runs from your brain to your inner ear. Acoustic neuromas are rare and usually slow growing.

What causes them is unclear, although, in some cases, they’re thought to be genetic. Symptoms can include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ear (tinnitus)
  • Unsteadiness

As they grow, acoustic neuromas can press against key brain structures, threatening your ability to hear, even how you move your face. If left untreated, some acoustic neuromas may grow large enough to cause permanent hearing loss and can be life-threatening. Others are small enough that they don’t cause any problems and won’t need any treatment besides regular observation by your physician.

At MedStar Health, we bring together an experienced team of specialists equipped with the knowledge, skills, and technology needed to treat even the most complex acoustic neuromas, preserving your health and your way of life.


A meningioma is a tumor that grows in the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges. A meningioma can be both benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous).

When these tumors occur in the skull base, near structures called the cavernous sinus, petrous bone, clivus, or posterior fossa, they can encircle blood vessels and nerves. Although meningiomas don’t always occur in the skull base, when they do, they can be very difficult to remove. Therefore, it is important to find a physician who specializes in skull base surgery to treat them.

Symptoms of a meningioma aren’t always readily apparent and usually come on gradually. They can include:

  • Eye blurriness or double vision
  • Headaches
  • Weakness in your arm or leg
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Seizures

Meningioma treatment

Meningiomas require an exceptional level of skill to resect (surgically remove) because they are often difficult to access and located near delicate structures within the brain or spinal cord. At MedStar Health, we bring together leaders in neurosurgery whose intense collaboration and superior skills allow us to deliver the safest, most effective procedures possible.

Pituitary tumor

A pituitary tumor is a tumor that arises from the pituitary gland, the gland primarily responsible for regulating your hormones. The bean-sized pituitary gland is located just behind your eyes at the base of the brain.

Pituitary tumors can have a large impact on your quality of life because of the pituitary gland’s important role in regulating your body’s hormones. We treat the full range of pituitary tumors, including:

  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Craniopharyngioma

Pituitary adenoma

Pituitary adenomas are slow-growing, non-cancerous tumors that originate in the pituitary gland. Some pituitary adenomas produce excess hormones, while others limit hormone production. Pituitary adenomas are relatively common (occurring in one in five adults), although most never cause any problems. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Vision loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hormone deficiencies that cause menstrual cycle changes and erectile dysfunction
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain


A craniopharyngioma is a non-cancerous tumor that originates right above the pituitary gland. They are relatively rare, representing two to five percent of all primary brain tumors (brain tumors that originate in the brain). They are found in both children and adults. They may grow large before you notice any symptoms, which may include:

  • Increased pressure on the brain, leading to headaches, vomiting, and balance issues
  • Impaired vision
  • Hormone imbalances that may cause excessive thirst, obesity, or stunted growth

Pituitary tumor treatments

At MedStar Health, we offer comprehensive, advanced therapies that are customized to you based on factors that include your overall health and circumstances along with the size, shape, location, and hormone production of your tumor.

We are one of the only skull base tumor programs on the entire east coast equipped to offer care that includes experienced, board-certified skull base tumor specialists with additional fellowship training in their specialty, intensive collaboration among our team of experts, and the most advanced technology available for your care, including Gamma Knife.

Pineal tumor

Pineal tumors are tumors that originate in the pineal gland, a small gland deep within the brain, near the brain fluid reservoir, called the third ventricle. Pineal tumors are rare, but other tumors within the ventricles of the brain are more common. All these tumors can be either cancerous or non-cancerous but rarely spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Double vision

Our experienced specialists have extensive experience treating and removing even the rarest skull base tumors using the most advanced, comprehensive treatments.


A glioma is a type of brain tumor that arises from glial cells, brain cells that act like “glue” within the central nervous system by holding neurons into place and protecting them. Gliomas are known for their invasive nature; they tend to grow and spread into normal brain tissue. This often complicates treatment options.

Nearly 80 percent of all cancerous brain tumors are gliomas, although not all gliomas are cancerous. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Memory loss
  • Physical weakness or loss of muscle control

Glioma tumor treatments

Our specialists work together to determine the best approach to your care, taking into account the tumor location, cell type, grade of malignancy (the rate at which your tumor grows and spreads), and your personal health and circumstances.

Metastatic brain cancer is cancer that has spread to the brain from the part of the body where it first started. Metastatic tumors are often hard to treat because the cells that start the new tumors may no longer match the original tumor cells. Cancers that commonly spread to the brain are lung, breast, skin, colon, and kidney cancers.

Metastatic brain tumors are often challenging to treat. That’s why we offer comprehensive, advanced treatments that can help you survive longer and improve the quality of your life.

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