Tumour Group: Non-Malignant Brain Tumours
WHO Grade: Grade I
Prevalence/Incidence: Craniopharyngiomas account for 1.2 – 4.6% of all intracranial tumours.
Typical Age Range: They are most common in children aged 5 to 15 years and adults aged 45 to 60 years.

Description of Tumour
Treatment / Standard of Care

Description of Tumour

A tumour that usually develops near the pituitary gland (a small endocrine gland at the base of the brain). Craniopharyngiomas are intracranial tumours that are typically both cystic and solid in structure.

Craniopharyngiomas are often not discovered until they press on important surrounding structures.

  • Grows in the regions of the optic nerves and the hypothalamus, near the pituitary gland 
  • Most common in the parasellar region, an area at the base of the brain and near the optic nerves 
  • Often accompanied by a cyst 
  • Originates in cells left over from early fetal development 
  • Tends to be low-grade 


Common symptoms include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Delayed development in children
  • Headaches
  • Visual changes
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Excess thirst and urination

Treatment / Standard of Care

  • Surgery is the most common treatment. Craniopharyngiomas can be difficult tumours to resect, and open versus endoscopic approaches are sometimes possible. It is important that patients are referred to neurosurgeons with expertise in craniopharyngioma surgery.
  • Radiation therapy is often used following surgery or if there is a recurrence of the tumour.
  • Complete removal of this tumour is possible if it is in a favourable location.


A prognosis is an estimate of the likely progress of a disease after a diagnosis, based on an average patient group. Since every person is different, please take time to talk with your health care team about how this information applies to you.

By clicking on 'Expand,' a statistic on the prognosis for craniopharyngiomas will be shown.

Expand for Prognosis Information

For brain tumour patients, a prognosis depends on several factors, which can include age and other health issues, the size of the tumour, its molecular profile, the type of tumour, how much can be removed and its response to treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Craniopharyngiomas are generally considered Grade I and tend to have the most favourable survival rates compared to other higher grade brain tumours. After either open or endoscopic surgery, sometimes also using radiation therapy, patients with craniopharyngiomas can have long-term survival but recurrences are possible and repeated treatments necessary.


Adult Brain Tumour Handbook 6th Edition. Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. 2012.

Louis, David N. WHO Classification of Tumours of the Central Nervous System. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2007. Print

Non-Malignant Brain Tumour Handbook. Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. 2011.

Image credited to [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


You can also download this information as a Information Sheet on Craniopharyngioma (pdf).


FinleyRead Finley's story with a Craniopharyngioma... 

After missing a week of school, Shannon and her husband took Finley to their local ER. In the hospital, doctors ran simple neurology tests on Finley, but the then 5-year-old couldn’t keep up says Shannon. “The doctor asked Finley to follow his finger, but Finley couldn’t move his eye to look in the direction the doctor instructed.” CT and MRI scans came next, and that’s when the Kroekers would finally learn what had caused such major changes in their son: Finley had a brain tumour, and surgery was needed immediately to relieve the pressure building up in his skull.




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