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You thought your headaches and blurry vision meant you needed new glasses. But instead, you’ve discovered you have a tumor at the bottom of your skull.

While many skull base tumors aren’t cancerous, depending on the location, they can cause problems with your vision, hearing, swallowing and balance. Particularly if they grow too big. And these quiet, slow-growing tumors often don’t even cause symptoms until they put pressure on your brain and spinal cord.

Cleveland Clinic has a team of providers who treat all types of skull base tumors — cancerous (malignant) and noncancerous (benign). Our team understands the worry and stress that come with this type of diagnosis. We’re not just here to treat your tumor. We’re also here to make sure you get the compassionate support you deserve throughout this treatment journey.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Skull Base Tumors Care?

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Caring approach:

When you learn you have a tumor in your head, a lot of things can run through your mind. Worries. Stress. And many questions. Our team is here to guide you through this uncertainty. We listen to your concerns, answer your questions and make sure you get the best, most personalized care.

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Personalized care:

Your skull base tumor is unique. Your treatment should be, too. At Cleveland Clinic, our experienced team looks at many things as we build your personalized treatment plan. The kind of skull base tumor, how big it is, what your symptoms are, where it is and if it’s cancerous or not. Not to mention your unique needs and goals.

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Skilled collaborative providers:

Most skull base tumors affect your body in different ways. That’s why we make sure you have a care team of providers from different specialties, like neurology, otolaryngology, cranial and skull base reconstruction, oncology and more. We build this team based on your needs. Our approach to care means these experts work together to plan your care and guide you through treatment. Meet our team.

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Comprehensive care:

Cleveland Clinic uses the combined experience of multiple specialists for the most individualized skull base tumor care. This lets us offer a wide range of treatments for all types of these tumors — like minimally invasive surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Your care team carefully chooses the best plan for you.

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Virtual visits:

There’s no place like home (or your favorite couch) when you’re recovering from treatment. So, when you need a follow-up appointment with your provider, you may be able to schedule a virtual visit. You can meet one-on-one online with your provider. And get the same great care.

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High-volume specialty:

Our skull base team has been recognized internationally for its expertise. We also have one of the highest volume skull base tumor centers in the United States.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Skull Base Tumors at Cleveland Clinic

Skull base tumors grow along the bottom of your skull — or right below this area. They can start as, what we call, a primary tumor. This means the tumor starts growing from bone and tissue in your skull base. These tumors may also have come from cancers that have spread from other places in your body. We call these metastatic tumors.

These tumors can affect many different things because you have a lot of nerves running through this area. That’s why you may have symptoms like hearing loss, balance problems, ringing in your ears, trouble with swallowing, headaches and more.

Types of skull base tumors

There are many types of skull base tumors — cancerous and not. Some benign ones we commonly treat are:

We also treat many cancerous skull base tumors like chondrosarcomas and chordomas.  Cancers like this also affect temporal bones, part of the skull base around your middle and inner ear on each side. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are two cancers that can cause metastatic skull base tumors.

Because there are different types of skull base tumors, getting a correct diagnosis before starting treatment is very important. That’s why you’ll first have an evaluation with our team.

What to expect at your evaluation

Your story is an essential part of your diagnosis. So, when you come to your first appointment, you’ll want to be prepared to share what’s been going on. Your provider will ask a lot of questions, like:

  • What kind of symptoms are you having?
  • How long have you had these symptoms?
  • Are your symptoms getting worse?
  • How are these symptoms affecting your life?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any other health conditions?

You can expect to have a physical exam so your provider can check out your overall health and symptoms. You may also have a neurological exam. And you’ll get orders for tests so our team can rule out other conditions — and confirm a skull base tumor diagnosis.

Testing for skull base tumors

Imaging tests play a big role in making sure you have the correct diagnosis. You may have:

Our team may need to perform a biopsy. This means using a needle to take a sample of the tumor to look for cancer cells under a microscope. A biopsy can help us find out what kind of tumor it is so we can plan the best possible treatment.

Meet Our Skull Base Tumor Team

Skull base tumors can affect your body in different ways. That’s because they interfere with how the nerves send signals from your brain to the rest of your body. And we must consider that some of these tumors are cancerous.

So, we build your care team with providers from many specialties, like:

This team works together to build a treatment plan that focuses on your needs, symptoms and diagnosis.


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida.

Treating Skull Base Tumors at Cleveland Clinic

Your treatment depends on the kind of tumor you have, where it is and if it’s cancerous. For some types of noncancerous (benign) skull base tumors, especially when they’re found without symptoms, we might do “watchful waiting.” And some benign tumors are dormant and not actively growing. We’ll keep a close eye on you and your symptoms through regular appointments and imaging tests. If it looks like the tumor is growing, we can start treatment quickly.

We use the latest technology and tools during treatment. Your care team will share their treatment recommendations with you. You may have.


The skull base is a complex area full of nerves, blood vessels, bone and muscles. Along with the lower parts of your brain and part of your spinal cord. Tumors here can be tough to reach. But when possible, we’ll do brain surgery to remove the tumor or at least part of it.

We want to minimize brain, nerve and blood vessel damage during surgery. When we can, we’ll use a minimally invasive approach like endoscopic surgery through your nose or a keyhole craniotomy. Even in traditional open surgery, our team can do surgery through smaller openings.

You may need reconstructive surgery when removing a tumor that affects how your head or face looks or how your nerves work. We try to do reconstruction during the same surgery as tumor removal.

Radiation therapy

Some cancerous and benign tumors may respond to radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor or after to kill any remaining cancer cells (adjuvant therapy). There are multiple types of radiation. Your care team will go over which they think will work best for you. We may also recommend computer-guided focused radiation called Gamma Knife® radiosurgery to destroy the tumor instead of using surgery.

Systemic therapy

This treatment uses medication to kill cancer cells that may have spread throughout your body. It can also prevent them from spreading. You may have chemotherapy or immunotherapy. The one we use depends on what kind of skull base tumor you have.

Life After Skull Base Tumors Treatment

Once you finish treatment, we’ll still want to see you. You may have regular follow-up visits and testing so we can see if the tumor has come back (recurred). If so, we can start treatment right away. And because these tumors can affect how you walk, talk, balance and swallow, you may have physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Taking the Next Step

Finding out there’s a tumor in your skull base isn’t the news anyone wants to get. But when you do, one thing is certain — you want the best care from trusted providers. Look no further than Cleveland Clinic. We have all the healthcare providers you need. We’re ready to offer expert, compassionate care that’s personalized for your specific diagnosis. You can count on us to support you as you move forward with treatment and get back to enjoying life.

Getting an appointment with one of Cleveland Clinic’s skull base tumor experts is easy. We’re here to help you get care.


Getting an appointment with one of Cleveland Clinic’s skull base tumor experts is easy. We’re here to help you get care.

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Woman with a shaved head due to chemotherapy treatment is hopeful following remission.


While most skull base tumors aren’t cancerous, learning that yours is can be stressful and shocking. From the moment you get the news, you’re a survivor. As you face the challenges that go along with cancer treatment and recovery — physical and emotional — we’ll be right there with you. At Cleveland Clinic, survivorship care is one part of your journey. We offer a wide range of services, resources, clinics and support groups to help with any physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs you might have related to your cancer diagnosis. Lending a helping hand along the way, we want you to not only survive but thrive on this journey and beyond.

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