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Skull Base Tumors Diagnosis

doctor looking at head xray

Penn Head and Neck Cancer combines the expertise of specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center and Penn Ear, Nose and Throat to accurately diagnose skull base tumors.

A precise diagnosis of the type and progression of a skull base tumor is key to successful treatment. Our Penn Head and Neck specialists meet weekly at conferences called tumor boards to discuss each brain tumor case, and collaborate to create individualized treatment plans tailored to meet the needs of every patient.

Consisting of experts across multiple disciplines, our tumor board brings together the expertise of neuro-oncologists, otorhinolaryngologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiation oncologists and other health care professionals to accurately diagnose skull base tumors and oversee care. The entire team reviews their findings and shares information from clinic visits and diagnostic test results. A lead doctor will then discuss the team's conclusions and recommendations for treatment.

Skull Base Tumors Diagnostic Tools and Tests

Penn head and Neck Cancer offers leading edge diagnostic tools and tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis for all individuals with skull base tumors. Diagnostic tests and tools include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI is a diagnostic test that produces three-dimensional images of body structures using magnetic fields and computer technology. It produces very clear images of various types of nerve tissue and clear pictures of the brain stem and posterior brain. MRI of the brain can help determine many disorders including whether there are signs of prior mini-strokes. 
  • Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scan): A CT scan uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce images of the brain. A CT scan shows structures of the brain and evaluates for the presence of mass, fluid collection and/or signs of a stroke. 
  • Bone Scan: This procedure entails injecting radioactive material into your bloodstream. The tumor absorbs the material and a special camera is used to produce an image using a computer. This way your doctor can locate the bone tumor and detect any spread of cancer into other organs.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET): A PET scan can detect changes in cells as they grow. Often used in conjunction with a CT, a PET/CT identifies tumor cells injected with a radioactive glucose so they can be compared with normal parts of the brain.

Intraoperative Advanced Imaging Technology

  • TumorGlow®: TumorGlow® is a type of interoperative molecular imaging that relies on an injectable dye that has been specially engineered to accumulate in cancerous tissues, much more so than in normal tissues. It also enables previously unattainable levels of precision during resection.
  • Intraoperative Molecular Imaging: A new advanced imaging technology utilizing an injectable reactive contrast that causes the tumor site to “glow,” enabling previously unattainable levels of precision during resection.
  • 3D Endoscopy: Provides three dimensional visualization, improving depth perception during evaluation and surgery.
  • Neuroradiologic Mapping: Produces highly precise clinical imaging of advanced tumors within the central and peripheral nervous system, using both MRI and CT to best define tumors of the skull base and rule out anomalies that will not require surgery.
  • Interventional Angiography: Defines critical vascular structure and decrease blood loss during certain procedures, used to block off blood vessels to a tumor as well as provide critical analysis to determine if the pituitary gland is the cause of the Cushing’s symptoms (Inferior petrosal sinus sampling).
  • Cranial Nerve Monitoring: Used during surgery to identify and preserve vision, hearing, balance and facial expressions as well as speech and swallowing.
  • Intraoperative Computer-Assisted Navigation: Used to identify the precise location of tumors in relation to surrounding vital tissues.