What Is A Skull Base Tumor And What Are Its Risk Factors?
The base of the skull is constituted of various types of bones, which form the bottom part of the head and the bony ridge behind the eyes and the nose. This is the area of the head, which is vulnerable to growth of various kinds of tumors. These tumors are termed as skull base tumors. While many skull base tumors are benign, there are certain skull base tumors which are malignant and rapidly spread to the adjoining structures.
When these tumors grow at a stage where they put pressure on the brain, then it results in variety of symptoms that the affected individual experiences. Treatment of a skull base tumor can be a challenging prospect, as the tumor may grow deep within the inner parts of the brain where there are important nerves and vessels.
As of now, there is no known cause for the development of a skull base tumor, but there are certain risk factors, which may predispose an individual to the development of this condition. These risk factors are
- A history of radiation to the head for treatment of infection in the area of the scalp, or to treat other tumors of the head, neck, or brain.
- Chronic exposure to chemicals like vinyl chloride and arsenic can also predispose an individual to a skull base tumor.
- Genetic makeup of an individual also plays a role in the development of a skull base tumor.
In majority of the cases, skull base tumors grow within the skull, but in some cases they may also grow outside the skull. There are different types of skull base tumor and are classified depending on the location within the skull and the type of the tumor.
Tumors formed in the front portion of the skull base include meningioma, olfactory neuroblastoma, and paranasal sinus cancer. Tumors formed in the central part of the skull base include pituitary adenomas, craniopharyngioma, and Rathke’s cleft cyst. Tumors formed in the back portion of the skull base include acoustic neuroma, chondrosarcoma, and chordoma.
The fundamental question that every patient with a risk factor for a skull base tumor asks is what are the primary presenting features of malignant skull base tumor.
What Are The Presenting Features Of A Malignant Skull Base Tumor?
The presenting features of a malignant skull base tumor tends to appear very slowly and gradually and may not be apparent, until the tumor has grown enough to cause pressure in the brain, the pituitary gland, or the optic nerve.
The presenting features depend on the type, location and the size of the tumor. A skull base tumor affecting the nose may cause abnormalities in the sense of smell of the individual and may also cause problems breathing.
A tumor affecting the pituitary gland or optic nerve tends to affect the vision of the affected individual. Some of the other features associated with a malignant skull base tumor are:
- Persistent headaches
- Problems with breathing
- Olfactory abnormalities
- Vision disturbances
- Problems with hearing
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Frequent bouts of nausea and vomiting
- Memory loss
In conclusion, the presenting features of a malignant skull base tumor are variable and depend on the size, location and type of the tumor. For tumors affecting the ear hearing may get affected.
Similarly, tumors affecting the optic nerve may affect the vision but on the whole an individual with a malignant skull base tumor will complain of frequent bouts of headaches along with loss of weight, problems with balance and coordination, and dysphagia and hearing issues as a result of a malignant skull base tumor.
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