Craniopharyngioma care at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic experts offer compassionate, whole-person care to children and adults with craniopharyngioma.

Diagnosis at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic doctors use advanced diagnostic techniques to identify craniopharyngioma. Tests and procedures may include:

  • Physical exam. Diagnosing a craniopharyngioma usually starts with a medical history review and a neurological exam by your doctor. During this procedure, your vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes are tested.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests may reveal changes in hormone levels that indicate a tumor is affecting your pituitary gland.
  • Imaging tests. Tests to create images of your brain may include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT).

Treatment at Mayo Clinic

At Mayo Clinic, a team of experts works with you to determine which craniopharyngioma treatment is best for you. Treatment for craniopharyngioma usually involves surgery. Other treatments may be used depending on your situation.

  • Surgery. Surgery to remove all or most of the tumor is most often recommended for people with craniopharyngioma. What type of operation is performed depends on the location and size of your tumor.

    Open craniopharyngioma surgery (craniotomy) involves opening the skull to gain access to the tumor. During minimally invasive craniopharyngioma surgery (transsphenoidal procedure), special surgical tools are inserted through your nose or through a small incision above your upper lip. The tools pass through a bone (sphenoid bone) and into your brain.

    When possible, surgeons remove the entire tumor. But because there are often many delicate and important structures nearby, doctors sometimes can't remove the entire tumor. In those situations, other treatments may be used after surgery.

  • Radiosurgery. When a tumor can't be removed completely with surgery, your doctor may recommend stereotactic radiosurgery. Technically a type of radiation and not an operation, stereotactic radiosurgery focuses multiple beams of radiation on precise points to kill the tumor cells.
  • Radiation therapy. Other forms of radiation therapy may be used to treat craniopharyngioma, depending on the situation. Radiation uses powerful energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to kill tumor cells.

    Mayo Clinic radiation oncologists use the latest radiation technology, including proton therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). These advanced procedures help treat the cancer effectively while limiting radiation to normal tissues, such as the eyes, optic nerves, brain, brainstem and spinal cord.

  • Clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies of new treatments or new ways of using existing treatments. People who seek care at Mayo Clinic have access to the latest treatments through clinical trials.