What is the treatment for Childhood Craniopharyngiomas?

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 10, 2013

Children with craniopharyngioma should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating brain tumors in children.

Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with tumors. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatric health care providers who are experts in treating children with brain tumors and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:

  • Neurosurgeon
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Neurologist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Psychologist
  • Social Worker
  • Nurse specialist

Childhood brain tumors may cause symptoms that begin before diagnosis and continue for months or years.

Symptoms caused by the tumor may begin before diagnosis. These symptoms may continue for months or years. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about symptoms caused by the tumor that may continue after treatment.

Some treatments for tumors cause side effects months or years after treatment has ended.
Side effects from tumor treatment that begin during or after treatment and continue for months or years are called late effects. Late effects of tumor treatment may include the following

  • Physical problems such as vision problems and obesity
  • Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory
  • Second cancers (new types of cancer)

For example, serious late effects of radiation therapy for craniopharyngioma may include the following:

  • Pituitary gland stops making hormones
  • Stroke or blood vessel problems
  • Blindness
  • Second cancer in the area that received radiation

Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the effects tumor treatment can have on your child.

Three types of treatment are used:




The way the surgery is done depends on the size of the tumor and where it is in the brain. It also depends on whether the tumor has grown into nearby tissue in a finger-like way. The types of surgery include the following:

Transsphenoidal surgery


A type of surgery in which the instruments are inserted into part of the brain by going through an incision (cut) made under the upper lip or at the bottom of the nose between the nostrils and then through the sphenoid bone (a butterfly-shaped bone at the base of the skull).



Surgery to remove the tumor through an opening made in the skull.
Sometimes all of the tumor that can be seen is removed in surgery and no further treatment is needed. At other times, it is more difficult to remove the tumor because it is growing into or pressing on nearby organs. Serious problems may occur if the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, optic nerves, or carotid artery are affected during surgery.

If there is tumor remaining after the surgery, radiation therapy is usually given to kill any tumor cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

After surgery, follow-up testing with MRI will be done for several years to check if the tumor has come back. Also, if part of the pituitary gland is removed in surgery, several types of pituitary hormone replacement pills will be given for life.


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