Skull Base Tumors

Tumors that form in the base of the skull may be either benign or malignant. Exact symptoms vary but typically include headaches, breathing difficulty, blurry vision, difficulty swallowing, loss of smell, hearing loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and memory loss.

In order to diagnose tumors of the skull base, the physician will rely on a physical exam, a neurological exam and imaging studies. These might include CT scan, MRI, bone scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of treatments. Due to the sensitive location, minimally invasive surgical procedures are preferred when possible.

Vestibular Schwannoma

Also known as acoustic neuroma, this benign, slow-growing tumor forms on the acoustic nerve of the inner ear. While it often requires no treatment other than careful monitoring, in some cases it grows large enough to create pressure on the brain, leading to hearing loss, tinnitus and dizziness. If these symptoms become problematic, possible treatment options include surgery or radiation.

Surgery may be an option for tumors that are growing or causing symptoms. Gamma Knife radiosurgery delivers radiation without the need for an incision, but results can take a long time. More invasive surgery may be required, especially if your tumor is growing close to the brain or facial nerve.


This tumor, normally benign, develops on the membranes surround the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). It is the most common type of head tumor, responsible for about one-third of all tumors in this region, and typically grows very slowly, often without producing any symptoms. If the meningioma presses against the brain, headache, weakness in the limbs, seizures, personality changes and vision problems may result, necessitating treatment.

Immediate treatment of a meningioma may not be necessary; your doctor may recommend a wait-and-see approach. Other options include surgical removal if the tumor shows signs of growth and radiation/chemotherapy if surgery is not 100 percent successful.

Spinal Fluid Leaks

Watery fluid circulating through the cavities of the brain and spinal cord is known as cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. When the skull bone is damaged – usually as a result of a head injury or surgery – this fluid may leak out through the nose or ear, resulting in headache, hearing loss, tinnitus and vision problems.

Your doctor will likely recommend bed rest and limited activity. However, if the issue does not resolve on its own, endoscopic surgery may be required.

Call California Head & Neck Specialists at 858.909.0770 for more information or to schedule an appointment.