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Childhood Craniopharyngioma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


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. (See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information).

Five 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).
    Transsphenoidal surgery. An endoscope and a curette are inserted through the nose and sphenoid sinus to remove cancer from the pituitary gland.
  • Craniotomy: Surgery to remove the tumor through an opening made in the skull.
    Craniotomy: An opening is made in the skull and a piece of the skull is removed to show part of the brain.

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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