The University of Chicago Medicine offers leading-edge treatments for benign and cancerous skull base tumors. Many skull base tumors are treated through surgery, but treatment may also involve radiation and/or chemotherapy to effectively treat the tumor while preserving the surrounding brain and critical structures.

We bring together experts from head and neck surgery, neurosurgery, oncology, radiation oncology, otolaryngology, radiology, neuro-oncology and ophthalmology together to create the most effective treatment plan for each patient. Based on the location, type and size of the tumor, your skull base tumor team will develop a personalized plan that may include one or more of the following:

Active Surveillance

For some patients with benign tumors or conditions that have no symptoms, we may recommend active surveillance rather than treatment. Active surveillance involves watching for symptoms and having regular MRIs or CT scans to monitor any changes in the tumor or condition that may require treatment.

Surgery

By collaborating closely, our skull base tumor surgical teams discuss each case to select the best surgical solution for your specific condition. We perform a wide range of skull base tumor procedures, including: 

Minimally invasive neurosurgery, such as endoscopic endonasal skull base surgery, which offers a faster recovery period with fewer complications. This approach involves accessing the tumor through the nose using small cameras and tools, without making incisions in the face or scalp.

The full range of conventional and complex open skull base tumor surgeries involving microsurgical techniques. Our surgeons access tumors and/or other skull based conditions in the front, side or back of the skull base using a wide range of microsurgical approaches, including:

  • Transbasal
  • Trans-frontal sinus
  • Pterional
  • Craniotomies, including orbitozygomatic, orbital and zygomatic Middle fossa
  • Trans-petrosal
  • Anterior petrosal
  • Translabyrinthine and trans-otic
  • Retrolabyrinthine
  • Retrosigmoid
  • Trans-condylar (“far lateral”)
  • Interhemispheric

Advanced technologies to ensure the safest possible surgery, including intraoperative navigation, ultrasound and pathologist consultations, laser interstitial thermal therapy and specialized neuro-anesthesia care.

Radiation Therapy

UChicago Medicine uses the most innovative technology to provide pinpoint accuracy when treating skull base tumors with radiation therapy. This allows doctors to focus radiation on the tumor, often with sub-millimeter precision, and avoid radiation to healthy tissue and important nearby structures. We offer a full range of radiation techniques, including:

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)

Stereotactic radiosurgery, which is delivered as an outpatient procedure over several sessions, uses highly accurate positioning systems and 3D imaging to precisely map the location of the tumor and surrounding anatomy. Without any incision, our team can accurately target high-dose radiation to the tumor, causing it to shrink or disappear. Since this approach is highly targeted, the normal tissue around the tumor receives little or no radiation.

Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)

UChicago Medicine pioneered the use of intensity-modulated radiotherapy for head and neck cancer treatment. IMRT is a precise form of 3D radiotherapy that uses computers and multiple beams to shape radiation to the treatment area. IMRT allows us to "turn up" the radiation dose on tumor areas while excluding sensitive regions like the brain stem and spinal cord.

Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)

We use image-guided radiation therapy, in which follow-up imaging is performed during a treatment course in order to assess a tumor’s response. This allows doctors to make adjustments during the course of radiation treatment.

Chemotherapy

In rare cases, skull base tumors may require chemotherapy in addition to radiation. Thanks to advances in global research, chemotherapy treatment today causes fewer side effects and is more effective. UChicago Medicine is a leader in using novel chemotherapies that are tailored to target cancer cells, a big improvement over older medicines that did not distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells. For malignant tumors, we may recommend immunotherapy, which involves treatments that help the body's immune system seek out, recognize and attack cancer cells.

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Skull Base Tumors