Children's Hospital Colorado

Craniopharyngioma

What is craniopharyngioma?

Craniopharyngioma is an uncommon, slow-growing brain tumor that can occur in children or adults. Craniopharyngioma always occurs in the same location, known as the sellar/suprasellar region. This region is located just behind and between the eyes.

What are the types of craniopharyngioma?

There are two types of craniopharyngioma: adamantinomatous and papillary. Children with craniopharyngioma almost always have the adamantinomatous subtype. These tumors usually have some areas that are solid and some areas that are cystic (made up of pockets of trapped fluid).

Craniopharyngioma tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. The risk associated with a craniopharyngioma tumor is injury to important structures of the brain that are located near where the tumor grows. 

What causes craniopharyngioma?

The cause of craniopharyngioma is unknown. Experts at Children's Hospital Colorado are currently involved in research to discover the cells from which craniopharyngioma originates.

Some evidence indicates that these tumors originate from the pituitary gland (a small structure at the base of the brain, behind and between the eyes, that secretes hormones that help keep the body healthy). Other evidence suggests that craniopharyngioma may arise from a developmental structure called the craniopharyngeal duct (or Rathke's pouch).

Craniopharyngioma does not run in families, nor is it caused by exposure to anything specific in the environment, such as a child’s diet.

Who gets craniopharyngioma?

Craniopharyngioma occurs in both children and adults. Approximately half of craniopharyngiomas are diagnosed in children less than 18 years of age. Among children, it is most frequent between the ages of 5-14. Craniopharyngioma accounts for about 3-9% of all pediatric central nervous system tumors.

There is no clear association of craniopharyngioma with a particular gender, race or geographic region.

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