A tumor is an abnormal mass of body tissue that may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Tumors occur when cells divide and grow, invading surrounding tissues and spreading to other organs if left unchecked.
Growths can be divided into different categories. A neoplasm is an abnormal growth of tissue that grows faster than normal cells, competing with them for nutrients. It is another word for tumor.
A benign tumor is one that is localized, does not spread to other parts of the body and can be successfully treated. A malignant tumor continues to grow and spread and does not respond well to treatment. It is classified as cancer.
What Causes Tumors?
Tumors are the result of problems with the body’s immune system. There are many causes, including:
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Environmental toxins.
- Genetic problems.
- Exposure to sunlight.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of tumor. Some cause no symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage, while others exhibit signs early on. Generally speaking, symptoms associated with tumors include chills, fever, fatigue, malaise, loss of appetite, weight loss and night sweats.
Testing & Diagnosis
Unless there is an obvious lump, most cancers can’t be seen during a physical exam. If a tumor is suspected, a biopsy (tissue sample) will be examined beneath a microscope. This will help determine whether the cancer is benign or malignant. Further testing – a CT scan, MRI or PET scan – will determine the location of the tumor and the extent to which it has spread.
Treatment varies depending upon the type and location of the tumor and whether it’s benign or malignant. If cancerous, treatment options include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy or a combination of the three.
Skull Base Tumors
The base of the skull is the area behind the eyes and nose that reaches to the back of the head. Their proximity to the spinal cord, nerves and blood vessels in a confined space makes treatment difficult.
Types of Skull Base Tumors
A number of different types of tumors can form in the skull base. The location can influence not only the type of tumor and its growth rate, but also the corresponding treatment.
Most skull base tumors form in one of three areas. The anterior compartment of the skull base, which houses the eye sockets and sinuses, is prone to meningioma, olfactory neuroblastoma and paranasal sinus cancer. The central compartment, home to the pituitary gland, sees pituitary adenomas, craniopharyngioma and Rathke’s cleft cyst. The posterior compartment sees acoustic neuromas, chondrosarcoma, chordoma and meningioma.
The prognosis for each of these tumors differs. Some are benign and cause few problems, while others are malignant and may spread quickly.
While exact symptoms vary based on the tumor type, in general patients may experience any of the following signs: headaches, breathing difficulty, blurry vision, trouble swallowing, loss of smell, hearing loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and memory loss.
Diagnosing & Treating Skull Base Tumors
In order to diagnose tumors of the skull base, the physician will rely on a physical exam, a neurological exam and imaging studies. These might include CT scan, MRI, bone scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
As with most cancers, treatment for skull base tumors is dependent upon a number of factors. Location of the tumor, its size and type, whether it is benign or malignant and the patient’s age and overall health are all taken into consideration.
Options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of treatments. Due to the sensitive location, minimally invasive surgical procedures are preferred when possible.
Call PDX ENT at (503) 222-3638 for more information or to schedule an appointment.