Craniopharyngiomas are very rare benign (non-cancerous) tumours, with 50% occurring in children under 16 years, and the remainder at any time in adult life.

This type of tumour or cystic mass is quite rare and congenital (from birth). It exerts pressure on the hypothalamus which lies just above the pituitary gland and is responsible for releasing hormones that start and stop the release of pituitary hormones.

Faster growing craniopharyngiomas affect children whilst slower growing ones affect adults. This type of tumour can cause headaches and vision problems and can affect hunger, thirst and sleep patterns.

Onset of puberty and growth hormone production in children can also be affected, plus growth hormone production may also be affected in adults.

The tumours can be solid, cystic (full of fluid), calcified, or full of debris. They are slow-growing tumours that can take 2-3 years (or longer) to manifest themselves before a diagnosis is made.

Typical symptoms

  • headaches (sometimes accompanied by nausea or vomiting)
  • Diabetes Insipidus
  • disturbed sleep patterns
  • vision disturbance
  • behavioural changes, including introversion and inability to concentrate
  • slow growth
  • increased sensitivity to cold or heat
  • early or delayed puberty - children
  • irregular periods or loss of normal menstrual function (Amenorrhoea) - adult females
  • impotence - adult males
  • reduced fertility - adults
  • decrease in sex drive - adults
  • tiredness and susceptibility to infections
  • appetite and weight variations