Traditionally, surgery has been the main treatment for craniopharyngioma. However, radiation treatment instead of surgery or along with a smaller surgery may be the best choice for some patients.
In tumors that cannot be removed completely with surgery alone, radiation therapy is usually necessary. If the tumor has a classic appearance on CT scan, a biopsy may not be necessary if treatment with radiation alone is planned.
This tumor is best treated at a center with experience in treating patients with craniopharyngiomas.
In general, the outlook for patients with craniopharyngioma is good. Patients have an 80 to 90% chance of a permanent cure if the tumor can be completely removed with surgery or treated with high doses of radiation. If the tumor returns, it will usually come back within the first 2 years after surgery.
A patient's outlook depends on several factors, including:
Whether the tumor can be completely removed
What nervous system problems and hormonal imbalances the tumor and treatment cause
Most of the problems with hormones and vision do not improve with treatment. Sometimes the treatment may even make them worse.
A large percentage of patients have long-term hormone, vision, and nervous system problems after craniopharyngioma is treated.
When the tumor is not completely removed, the condition may return.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider for the following symptoms:
Headache, nausea, vomiting, or balance problems (signs of increased pressure on the brain)
Increased thirst and urination
Poor growth in a child
Maity A, Pruitt AA, Judy KD, Phillips PC, Lustig R. Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 70.
Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Providence Hospital, Medford, OR, Department of Neurosurgery a Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, and Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.