NSW Government NSW Health
South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
nsw health

Types of tumours

Craniopharyngiomas

Craniopharyngiomas are historically a benign tumour which develops in a part of the brain called the pituitary and usually affects the anterior pituitary gland. Craniopharyngiomas are either cystic, solid or mixed (cystic and solid) and are commonly located in the suprasellar component of the pituitary gland. They usually occur in children and young adults, accounting for approximately 10% of brain tumours in this population and may be quite large when symptoms occur.

The common presenting symptoms tend to be headaches, visual disturbance and endocrine dysfunction.

Treatment options:

Meningiomas

Meningiomas are a very common type of brain tumour and are located in the meninges. Historically they are a benign tumour however occasionally turn malignant. They are more prevalent amongst females and often manifest between the fourth and sixth decade of life.

Up to 2008, over 500 patients have been seen and more than 380 patients have been treated for this type of tumour at this institution.

Common sites for meningiomas are-
    Cavernous sinus (left or right side)
    Sagittal sinus
    Sphenoid ridge
    Petrous ridge
    Optic nerve (rare) 

Treatment options:

Acoustic Neuromas/Vestibular Schwannomas:

Acoustic Neuromas are a benign, very slow growing tumour which grow near the inner ear canal connecting to the brain and are often referred to as "Vestibular Schwannomas".

These tumours originate from cells from the eighth cranial nerve which multiply abnormally.

Symptoms are often vague and difficult to diagnose.

Early symptoms may include:
    Decreased hearing
    A 'blocked' or 'full' sensation in the ear
    Tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear)
    Nausea
    Being a little 'off balance' 

Treatment options:

Trigeminal Neuralgia:

Trigeminal Neuralgia, often referred to as Tic Douloureux is not a tumour but a condition affecting the 5th cranial nerve or trigeminal nerve. The function of this nerve is to send impulses for touch, facial pressure as well as pain and temperature to the brain. As this is a major and large nerve it usually affects one side of the face (left or right side) - forehead, eyes, cheeks and gums. The condition tends to manifest in mid adult life, and rarely affects the younger population.

Typically symptoms are severe with sudden painful electric-type shocks shooting from the nerve on one side of the face or a 'burning sensation'. Symptoms may be mild to severe, infrequent or frequent.

Treatment by SRS in patients with long-term and chronic Trigeminal Neuralgia is available at this institution.

Pituitary Tumours:

The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain below the optic nerve (the nerve which leads to and from the eye), and is small and oval in shape. This tiny gland produces hormones which regulate and control many other gland functions in the body.   The pituitary gland is divided into two parts: the anterior (front) and posterior (back). Most pituitary tumours are benign and are referred to as 'non secreting' or 'secreting' tumours. 

Common types of pituitary tumours are-

  • Non-functioning Adenoma
 
  • Cushing Disease
 - often referred to as an ATCH secreting tumour
  • Acromegaly
- often referred to as a Growth Hormone secreting tumour
  • Prolactinoma
 

Arteriovenous Malformations (AVM):

Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations are a benign lesion which develop as an abnormal array of arteries and veins in the brain. This arrangement lacks the normal capillary structure which in turn alters blood flow, making them susceptible to haemorrhage. They are found in patients of all ages including children, however most clinical presentations occur between ages 20-40 years.

Symptoms of Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations include: seizure, headaches, haemorrhage, and neurological deficit, although they can be asymptomatic.  The size of the lesion and the location within the brain often determine treatment.

Treatment Options:

There are a couple of AVM projects currently being carried out by this Department.  One is looking at the effectiveness of Stereotactic Radiosurgery in obliterating intracranial AVM, and the other is concerned with improving imaging techniques.

Gliomas:

A glioma is a tumour that originates from 'glial cells' in the brain.  They are characterized by the cells they resemble and are either low-grade or high-grade.

Types of gliomas include -

  • Ependymomas
  • Astrocytomas
  • Oligodendrogliomas
  • Mixed gliomas