Anyone with the symptoms of a craniopharyngioma should have a thorough neurological examination along with blood tests to check hormone levels. If a tumor is suspected, the patient will likely have imaging tests done:
Computerized tomography (CT) is a noninvasive procedure that uses x-rays to produce an image of the brain. It often makes use of a contrast agent (a dye) to sharpen the image.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are the best tools for diagnosing a craniopharyngioma. An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio-frequency waves to create an image of the brain, and can reveal the presence of a tumor.
If a craniopharyngioma is suspected, the patient should be referred to a neurological surgeon at a major medical center who has experience treating craniopharyngioma in both adults and children and, in particular, familiarity with the endonasal endoscopic approach which is used to treat most craniopharyngiomas (see Doctors Who Treat Craniopharyngiomas). Patients also see a neuro-ophthalmologist and an endocrinologist ot manage the visual and endocrine issues often associated with these tumors. At Weill Cornell Medicine, we have a multidisciplinary team that sees every patient to provide the most comprehensive care available.
Surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment for craniopharyngioma. A neurosurgeon may perform a surgical biopsy first to extract a piece of the tumor to confirm that it is in fact a craniopharyngioma but this is not usually required since the appearance on MRI is often sufficient to make the diagnosis. In some cases, the diagnosis can be confirmed during the biopsy, and the surgeon will then continue the surgery and remove as much of the tumor as possible. (see Surgery for a Craniopharyngioma).
Reviewed by: Theodore Schwartz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: September 2023