The “skull base” is a part of the head and a confusing term. It would be better named the “brain base” because it refers to the gap between the bottom of the brain and the part of the skull directly below it. Within the skull base are all the blood vessels that supply the brain with nutrients and oxygen, as well as nerves that are critical to functions such as vision, smell, hearing, facial movement and breathing.
Various types of tumors can develop in the areas at the base of the skull. Some types of skull base tumors include:
- Meningiomas: Very common tumors that begin to develop in the brain. They affect the meninges, which are the layers of tissue surrounding the brain. As meningiomas grow, they can push up against the brain or spinal cord.
- Paragangliomas: These slow-growing tumors form out of blood vessels and grow in small spaces such as the ear. They can affect hearing and invade other parts of the ear or the facial nerve, causing facial paralysis or vertigo.
- Schwannomas, such as acoustic neuromas: These are slow-growing tumors that develop from the nerves that control balance and hearing in the inner ear. These tumors can grow, press against key nerves, and cause losses of hearing and balance.
While some skull base tumors are small enough to be removed surgically, those that grow bigger can be challenging to treat. They can be very close to other important areas and have unusual sizes and shapes. MedStar Health offers CyberKnife, one of the most advanced methods of using radiation, to treat these types of tumors. Learn more.