Skull base tumors are growths located on or near the bones that support the brain. Because they grow near structures that control hearing and balance, sight, smell, and other important functions, treating skull base tumors requires the skill, expertise, and coordinated care that can only be found at an experienced and comprehensive skull base center like ours. Duke's skull base experts -- conveniently located in both Raleigh and Durham -- work as a team to ensure you receive the best possible skull base tumor treatment while preserving your function and appearance.
Skull Base Tumor Symptoms
Symptoms of skull base tumors vary depending on their location and whether they're compressing nerves or blocking the flow of blood or fluid around the brain. Common symptoms include:
- Changes in sight, smell, hearing, or taste
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing through the nose or mouth
- Memory loss
- Ringing in the ears or other tinnitus symptoms
- Unexplained stuffiness or nose bleeds
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Types of Skull Base Tumors
These rare tumors most often grow on the side (lateral) or front (anterior) of the skull, on nerves, and inside the ear. Although rare, they can be cancerous. Some of the more common types of skull base tumors are:
Treating Your Skull Base Tumor
Each type of skull base tumor requires a unique treatment approach. These can range from watchful waiting to medication, radiation therapy, and surgery. The first step is identifying the type and location of your tumor with imaging scans and testing your hearing, balance, vision, facial nerves, and muscle activity. In some cases, your doctors may collect a small sample of cells from your tumor to learn more about it.
Many specialists are involved in treating skull base tumors. Our experts are constantly developing new techniques, testing new treatments, and applying the latest research to improve your care and outcomes. Our doctors meet regularly to review imaging results and determine the best course of treatment for each individual.
Skull Base Surgeons
Our skull base surgeons have completed advanced training to become experts in head and neck surgery, minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, rhinology (nasal and sinus problems), otology (ear-related disorders), neurotology (neurological disorders of the ear), and neuro-opthalmology (problems in how the eye and brain interact). Because of the locations of these tumors and how they can affect the senses, your team may include both ear, nose, and throat surgeons and neurosurgeons.
Radiation treatment, including stereotactic radiosurgery, may be recommended alone or in addition to 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.
A plastic reconstructive surgeon who specializes in the head and neck may also be part of your team, if needed.
Why Choose Duke
A Broad Range of Medical Experts
In addition to specialized surgeons, our team includes a range of subspecialists who can help improve your balance, hearing, voice, and swallowing capabilities or other functions that could be affected by your skull base tumor.
Patient Navigators Coordinate Your Care
Our patient navigators become your one-stop shop for scheduling appointments, coordinating your visits, communicating your test results, and planning your surgery. It’s their job to make your skull base tumor treatment journey easier by guiding you through it step by step. And they are more than willing to answer all of your questions along the way.
Our skull base tumor experts will review your diagnostic scans performed elsewhere and contact you to discuss an effective treatment plan. Please call 919-372-3337, and our patient navigator will help make arrangements for your second opinion.
Follow-Up Care Near Your Home
Once you've been treated at Duke, you may wish to continue your treatment closer to home. We will work with your local providers to coordinate care near your home, which may include radiation, other medication management, or follow-up care and therapies.
Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.