Skull base tumors require careful treatment not only because they are located near the vital nerves of the brain and spinal cord, but because they are also difficult to diagnose--- they present several symptoms such as nasal congestion and dizziness that can apply to a variety of conditions. Often, ENT surgery is needed to remove them, and most of the time this delicate procedure can be accomplished through endoscopic surgery.

There are several bones located in the base of your skull. In addition to those that comprise the bottom of your head, there is a bony ridge behind your nose and eyes.  The location of the tumor determines the best method of treatment.

Following are some frequently asked questions about skull base tumors.

What causes skull base tumors?

There’s no obvious cause for these tumors, although there are several factors that may contribute to developing them. They tend to run in families, so there is some genetic element involved. In addition, they also appear in those who have had any type of radiation therapy affecting the neck, scalp or head, according to information from Johns Hopkins.

What are the symptoms of skull base tumors?

The symptoms of skull base tumors mimic other conditions. Essentially, the extent and severity of the tumor depends upon its precise location and how much pressure it is placing on brain structures such as the pituitary gland. These symptoms may include:

  • Problems with your sense of smell
  • Vision difficulties, such as blurred or double vision
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness, nausea and vomiting

Because of this, skull base tumors are not diagnosed by symptoms alone. It frequently requires imaging such as an MRT or CT (CAT) scan. 

Are skull base tumors cancerous?

They can be. This is why it is so important to work closely with our ENT doctors to ensure a timely diagnosis. It’s also possible that a skull base tumor is the result of metastatic cancer, where cancer in another part of the body has spread to the skull. 

If you are diagnosed with cancer, we will work with you as part of a large disciplinary team involving oncologists and neurosurgeons to determine the best course of treatment.  

How are skull base tumors treated?

Most of these tumors—around 90 percent-- can be removed through an ENT surgery technique called endoscopic surgery
What does endoscopic surgery mean?

Through this technique, we use a narrow tube less than 4 mm wide called an endoscope. It has advanced fiber optics that enable us to see the area that needs surgery. It’s also equipped with a camera that allows us to see the area clearly by magnifying it and projecting it onto a screen. This enables us to carefully remove the tumor without affecting vital nerves. 

Our experience enables us to make difficult diagnoses accurately.

We specialize in using the most advanced techniques to perform sophisticated, state-of-the-art ENT surgeries that can remove skull base tumors with minimal scarring. If you have the symptoms listed above, you could have a variety of different conditions. However, there is always a possibility that one of these tumors exists and for that reason we encourage you to schedule an appointment so we can perform an MRI to make an accurate diagnosis. 


Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area's premiere physician-owned ENT practice with six convenient locations throughout Raleigh, Cary, Garner and Wake Forest. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Brain Tumor Center: Skull-base Tumors.” Online.

Kunimatsu A, Kunimatsu N. Skull Base Tumors and Tumor-Like Lesions: A Pictorial Review. Polish Journal of 
Radiology. 2017;82:398-409. doi:10.12659/PJR.901937. Online