Skull Base & Brain Tumor Symptoms

The team of skull base neurosurgeons and specialists at the Skull Base Center of Cushing Neuroscience Institute at North Shore-LIJ Health System treats disorders of the skull base, the floor of the cranial cavity that separates the brain from other facial structures. Skull base disorders fall into two major categories:

  • Vascular lesions
    • Aneurysms – a balloon-like bulge in an artery caused by weakening of the artery wall
    • Malformations of the veins and arteries – Known as arteriovenous malformations, AVMs are abnormal connections between veins and arteries.
  • Benign and malignant tumors

Skull base surgery at the Skull Base Center treats tumors and vascular problems that occur mostly at the skull base, including:

  • Meningiomas – one of the most common skull base tumors. Meningiomas are benign slow-growing tumors that begin at the covering of the brain and continue growing between the brain and the skull. As they grow, they press against the brain and the areas around it, causing various brain tumor symptoms such as imbalance, weakness of the arms and legs, and headaches. Symptoms of brain tumors that compress the cranial nerves are double vision, numbness, weakness or pain in the face or hoarseness.
  • Pituitary Tumors or Pituitary Adenoma – a tumor or growth on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland located underneath the front part of the brain and behind the bridge of the nose. The pituitary gland stores, releases, and controls a normal balance of the signal hormones that control the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, the ovaries in women, and the testes in men. Pituitary adenomas are almost always benign. These brain tumors either produce too much or too little of a certain hormone. More often, pituitary tumors may not secrete any hormone but produce symptoms because of their enlarged size. The most common symptoms of brain tumors in the pituitary gland are diplopia (double vision) or partial loss of peripheral (side) vision (called hemianopsia).
  • Acoustic Neuroma (schwannomas) – benign brain tumors that grow from the sheath cells that make up the covering on the vestibular nerves. The vestibular nerve runs from the inner ear to the brainstem. Next to the vestibular nerve are the acoustic and facial nerves. As an acoustic neuroma grows, it presses on these other nerves. The first and most common acoustic neuroma symptom a person exhibits is hearing loss in the ear near the tumor. Another common symptom of an acoustic neuroma brain tumor is “ringing in the ear,” or tinnitus.
  • Chordomas – rare brain tumors that involve the base of the skull. These primary malignant bone cancers are thought to grow from the remains of notochordal cells. In the embryo, notochordal cells normally form the structure around which the spinal column grows. These embryonic cells eventually breakdown and disappear. However, chordomas are thought to arise from notochordal cells that did not disappear. Over time, these cells change and grow into chordomas.  The most common symptoms of chordomas are pain and neurological changes. Brain tumor symptoms of skull base chordomas are headache, neck pain, diplopia (double vision), or facial nerve palsy (paralysis of facial muscles).
  • Cavernous Sinus is a small blood-filled space on both sides of the skull base, behind the eyes. Each sinus contains the carotid artery, the nerves that go to the muscles that move the eye, and provides feeling to the eyes and face. There are several disorders that may affect the cavernous sinus such as meningiomas, schwannoma, aneurysms, pituitary tumors, and infections of the face and eyes.
  • Facial Pain Syndromes are called trigeminal neuralgia, or tic douloureux. Patients have very sharp pain on only one side of the face for short periods of time. The location, intensity and symptoms of the pain are the same each time it happens. Some patients will describe the pain as an “electric shock,” while others may describe it as “knife-like.” One of the most important symptoms of facial pain syndromes is that the pain is separated by periods of no pain, even if for short periods of time. Although the exact cause of trigeminal neuralgia, it is strongly believed to be caused when the loop of a blood vessel leans against the trigeminal nerve where it enters the brainstem.

Make an appointment at our Skull Base Center
Cushing Neuroscience Institute’s Skull Base Center makes it easy for you to take the first steps in ensuring the best neurological care for yourself and your family. Simply email us at, or call us at  844-56Neuro (844-566-3876). You may also fill out our Request an Appointment form.