Skull Base Tumor Treatment

Skull base tumors are located near areas that control your senses -- hearing and balance, sight, smell, and more. Because of their location, the surgical removal and follow-up care of skull base tumors require the skill, expertise, and coordinated care that can only be found at a high-volume and comprehensive skull base center like Duke. If you or your child has been diagnosed with a skull base tumor, our skull base experts -- conveniently located in both Raleigh and Durham -- can help. We work as a team to ensure you receive the best possible skull base tumor treatment while preserving your function and appearance.

Victoria Vesce shows the scar left by her skull base tumor surgery

The Type and Location of your Skull Base Tumor Guides your Treatment Plan

There are many different skull base tumors, and each requires a different treatment approach. Treatment can range from watchful waiting to medication, radiation, and surgery. Identifying the type and location of your tumor is the first step. Common skull base tumors include:

  • Lateral (side of the skull base) tumors: acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma), meningioma, glomus tumors, and chondrosarcomas
  • Anterior (front of the skull base) tumors: pituitary tumors, sinus and nasal cavity tumors, chordomas, meningiomas
  • Nerve tumors: facial nerve tumors, neurofibromatosis (NF2)
  • Ear masses: cholesteatomas and dermoid tumors
  • Cancerous tumors that have spread to the skull base from elsewhere in the body

The skull base surgeons in our comprehensive testing facility may use MRI and MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram), PET and CT scans to create images of your skull. A biopsy may be performed to look at a small sample of cells under a microscope. Tests of your hearing and balance, facial nerve and muscle activity, and vision may also be checked, depending on your symptoms.

Who Will Treat Your Skull Base Tumor?

Many specialists are involved in the treatment of your skull base tumor, which is why it is so important to seek skull base tumor treatment at a large medical center like Duke. Our skull base specialists are constantly developing new techniques, testing new treatments, and applying the latest research to improve your care and outcome. The doctors meet regularly to review all of our patients’ imaging results and determine the best course of treatment for each individual.

  • Because the tumor is based in the head and neck area, your team often includes otolaryngologists (ear nose and throat surgeons) and neurosurgeons (brain surgeons) who work hand in hand during these complex surgical procedures.
  • Our skull base surgeons have undergone advanced training in the form of fellowships to become recognized experts in minimally invasive skull base surgery, rhinology (nasal and sinus problems), otology (ear-related disorders) and neurotology, which focuses specifically on neurological disorders of the ear.
  • A radiation oncologist is often involved in your care, as radiation treatment may be recommended alone or in combination with surgery. Your radiation oncologist will lead a team of radiation therapists, medical physicists, dosimetrists and nurses, who work together to optimize your experience and outcome. 
  • If you or your child requires reconstructive surgery, a plastic reconstructive surgeon dedicated to the head and neck may be part of your team.
  • Our team consists of other subspecialists who are ready to address your needs, including experts in balance, hearing, voice, and swallowing.

Your dedicated nurse navigator will help coordinate these appointments and surgery, discuss test results, and be there for you every step of the way.

Second Opinion for Skull Base Tumor

If you or your child had a diagnostic scan or test performed elsewhere and are looking for a second opinion, please contact us. Our skull base tumor experts will review your results and create an effective treatment plan. You will be among many individuals with diagnosed tumors who travel to Duke from across the country for their specialty care. You may mail your scans to:

Duke Skull Base Center
DUMC 3805
Durham NC 27710

If you choose to undergo surgery to treat your skull base tumor at Duke but receive your follow-up care closer to home, we are happy to coordinate your care with your doctors.

Skull Base Surgery

Our primary goal during skull base surgery is to remove your tumor safely with minimal loss of vision, smell, taste, facial function, hearing, and balance. Our use of MRI in the operating room allows us to confirm that we have completely removed the tumor during the procedure, in select cases. This reduces the need for additional procedures. We are one of only a handful of medical centers equipped with this technology.

Skull Base Radiation Therapy

Radiation is often the best treatment for hard-to-reach skull base tumors and may be used in conjunction with surgery. Several systems ensure accurate delivery of radiation to the tumor while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

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