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ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Childhood Craniopharyngioma. To see other pages, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen. Think of those boxes as a roadmap to this full guide. Or, click “Next” at the bottom of each page.
Craniopharyngioma is a type of central nervous system (CNS) tumor. A tumor begins when normal cells change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be benign (noncancerous, slow-growing) or malignant (cancerous, usually faster-growing). Craniopharyngioma is a benign tumor that is usually slow-growing and unlikely to spread.
About the central nervous system
The brain and spinal cord make up the CNS, where all vital functions of the body are controlled. The brain is the center of thought, memory, and emotion. It controls the five senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight); movement; and other basic body functions, including consciousness, heartbeat, circulation, and breathing. The spinal cord is made up of nerves that carry information from the body to the brain and from the brain to the body. When a tumor grows in the CNS, it can affect a person’s thought processes and/or movements. A tumor in the CNS can also be difficult to treat because the tissue around the tumor may be vital to the body’s functioning.
Craniopharyngioma starts near the pituitary gland in a part of the brain called the suprasellar region. This region is the area of the brain just above the sella, the part of the skull where the pituitary gland is located. The pituitary gland is an important gland in the brain and is often called the “master endocrine gland” because it produces several different hormones that affect how the body functions.
Craniopharyngioma is a slow-growing tumor that can grow for many years before it is found. It can be solid and/or cystic (a closed pouch or sac that contains fluid). The solid part may contain areas of calcium that can easily be seen on a CT scan. The cystic part of the tumor may also contain some solid material and often contains very high amounts of protein.
This section covers craniopharyngioma that occurs in children. For information about craniopharyngioma in adults, read the guide to brain tumors.
Looking for More of an Overview?
If you would like additional introductory information, explore these related items. Please note these links take you to other sections on Cancer.Net:
- ASCO Answers Fact Sheet: Read a one-page fact sheet (available in PDF) that offers an easy-to-print introduction to CNS tumors in children.
- Cancer.Net Patient Education Videos: View short videos led by ASCO experts in childhood tumors and cancers and brain tumors that provide basic information and areas of research.
Or, choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this detailed section. To select a specific topic within this section, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen.