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Craniopharyngiomas result from the growth of cells that early in fetal development have failed to migrate to their usual area just below the back of the skull. These tumors generally occur just above the pituitary gland. Located at the bottom of the brain, the pituitary gland is about the size of a pea and controls many vital functions.
Craniopharyngiomas do not spread, but may interfere with important structures near them, causing serious problems. Increased intracranial pressure due to obstruction of the foramen of Monro, one of the small tunnels through which cerebrospinal fluid exits the ventricles (cavities in the brain), accounts for many of the symptoms associated with this tumor. Other symptoms result from pressure on the optic tract and pituitary gland. Obesity, delayed development, impaired vision, and a swollen optic nerve are common.
Craniopharyngiomas represent 2-3 percent of all primary brain tumors, and 5-13 percent of childhood brain tumors.
With complete resection or limited surgery and radiation therapy, survival is 80-90 percent.
Treatment typically involves surgery and radiation therapy. Depending on age, location/extent of tumor and the child’s symptoms, surgery alone or limited surgery plus innovative radiation therapies are used.
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