Craniopharyngioma is the second most common type of childhood brain tumor, accounting for almost 10% of all brain tumors in children. This cancer has very little tendency to spread to other parts of the body. It readily invades local tissues, however, and since it occurs deep within the brain, invasion of local tissues alone can result in serious illness or even death.
The pituitary gland produces many hormones that play critical roles in the development and regulation of the body. Because this cancer arises in the pituitary gland, it often results in deficiencies of the various hormones that the pituitary gland produces. The tumor can be either solid or cystic or mixed, and most (up to 90%) of craniopharyngiomas contain calcium deposits, an indication of diseased tissue readily observable on x rays.
The large majority of craniopharyngiomas are childhood tumors. The median age at diagnosis is eight years; peak incidence is between the ages of six and eleven. Almost 70% of all craniopharyngiomas occur before the age of 20, although a small peak occurs after the age of 50. Diagnosis before the age of two is very rare. Girls and boys and all races are affected equally.
Wendy Wippel M.Sc., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,