Craniopharyngioma - Childhood: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of craniopharyngioma. Use the menu to see other pages.

Children with craniopharyngioma may experience one or more of the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, children with craniopharyngioma do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not craniopharyngioma.

Symptoms of craniopharyngioma can be caused by hormonal changes, pressure building up in the brain, or by the tumor pressing on nerves or blood vessels, which can cause the brain to not function properly in those areas. Generally, craniopharyngioma is not diagnosed until a child has symptoms.

General symptoms include:

  • Headaches, which may be severe and worse in the early morning

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Difficulty with balance

  • Increased sleepiness or fatigue

  • Mood or behavior changes

Location-specific symptoms of craniopharyngioma include:

  • Obesity or excessive weight gain

  • Excessive thirst and increased urination

  • Vision changes, blurriness, or loss of peripheral vision

  • Slow or halted body growth

  • Early or delayed puberty

If you are concerned about any changes your child experiences, please talk with your child’s doctor. Your doctor will try to understand what is causing your child’s symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is called a diagnosis.

If a central nervous system (CNS) tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your child’s care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative or supportive care," which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during treatment. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as a brain tumor. Learn more in this guide’s section on Coping with Treatment.

Be sure to talk with the health care team about the symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.