About Skull Base Tumors
The skull base is a small, yet highly complex and delicate area located behind the nose and between the eyes that slopes to the back of the head. This area essentially forms the floor of the skull. The spinal cord, the blood vessels that supply the brain, and nerve that sensory information all five senses pass through openings within the skull base.
Skull base tumors refer to either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) tumors that are found in this area. These tumors can be further classified into their exact location and the type of cell that comprises this tumor. Both location and cell type can influence the prognosis and type of treatment for the tumor. Examples of benign conditions include meningioma, craniopharyngioma. pituitary adenomas, encephaloceles, osteomas. Examples of malignancies include squamous cell carcinoma, esthesioneuroblastoma, adenocarcinoma, and melanoma.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Skull Base Tumors
Early diagnosis and multimodality treatment is the key to curing many of these tumors. However, because of the location of these tumors, they tend to present as symptoms that are shared with the common cold and other ENT complaints. These include nasal obstruction, ear fullness, nose bleeds, visual or hearing changes, headaches, or facial pain. The vast majority of patients with these symptoms have benign, easily treatable conditions such as chronic sinusitis; however, symptoms that persist need to be evaluated to rule out a more ominous cause such as a tumor.
The diagnosis requires the ability to visualize the tumor with special telescopes which allow clinicians to see into the nose with high-definition cameras. In addition, these tumors are also identified through imaging, such as a MRI, PET or CT scan, as well as a biopsy.
Skull Base Tumor Treatment
Because of the challenging location of these tumors, they must be treated by specialized teams devoted to skull base surgery. At Mount Sinai, our multidisciplinary team is comprised of pioneers in treating skull base tumors with a strong emphasis on minimally invasive/endoscopic techniques that minimize scarring and recovery time. In addition to these minimally invasive surgical techniques, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be required, depending on the tumor type and size.