Skull Base Chondrosarcoma

A skull base chondrosarcoma is a cancerous bone tumor that originates in the cartilage between the clivus bone at the top of the spine and the petrous bone near the ear. The tumor may form adjacent to or encapsulating critical nerves, blood vessels, and other important structures in the brain or spinal cord.

Chondrosarcomas in general are the second most common type of primary bone tumor. However, chondrosarcomas of the skull base are relatively rare and represent less than 1% of all brain tumors. They also tend to grow slowly and remain localized, and most can be surgically removed.

Skull base surgery is a highly specialized medical field, and the expertise necessary for diagnosing and treating skull base chondrosarcomas can be found in Tampa General Hospital’s renowned Neuroscience Institute. Our Skull Base Surgery Center features a world-class team of specialists in a variety of disciplines, including neurology, neurosurgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, pathology, radiology, oncology, plastic surgery, and intensive care medicine. Working closely together, these specialists ensure that each patient receives personalized, comprehensive care.

What Can Cause a Skull Base Chondrosarcoma?

Like all cancerous tumors, skull base chondrosarcomas develop when cells undergo abnormal changes that cause them to grow and divide very rapidly. The excess cells then build up, bind together and form tumors.

Scientists believe there may be a genetic or chromosomal component that makes certain individuals more susceptible to this type of malignancy; however, the precise triggers of the cellular mutations that lead to the development of skull base chondrosarcomas are not well understood. In some cases, chondrosarcomas are believed to have developed as a late consequence of radiation therapy for other cancers.

What Are the Symptoms of a Skull Base Chondrosarcoma?

Most symptoms of chondrosarcoma of the skull base are neurological and may include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision and other vision changes
  • Hearing loss
  • Facial pain and numbness
  • Difficulty swallowing

How Is a Skull Base Chondrosarcoma Diagnosed?

If a skull base chondrosarcoma is suspected based on the symptoms, a physician will typically obtain a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination, which may include a neurological evaluation to identify the location of the tumor and rule out other possible causes.

Depending on the initial findings, the physician may order further testing to confirm the diagnosis, which may include:

What Are the Treatment Options for a Skull Base Chondrosarcoma?

The most common treatment approach for skull base chondrosarcomas is a combination of surgery (open or endoscopic) to remove the tumor and radiation therapy to help prevent a recurrence. The traditional open surgical approach involves removing bone to access the internal structures of the skull base. The endoscopic surgical approach—also known as the expanded endonasal trans-sphenoidal approach—involves using the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access the internal structures of the skull base.

As compared to open surgery, endoscopic surgery offers several advantages, including:

  • No incisions
  • Lower risk of brain retraction
  • Lower risk of cerebrospinal fluid leaks
  • Lower risk of cognitive decline
  • A shorter hospital stay
  • A faster recovery

The skilled neurosurgeons and ENT surgeons at TGH have extensive experience in performing both open and endoscopic skull base surgery as well as utilizing advanced surgical techniques and technologies to access difficult-to-reach and previously inoperable tumors. Each patient we care for receives tailored treatment recommendations based on an in-depth assessment of the size and location of the tumor and other individual factors.

Choose TGH for World-Class Care

TGH offers globally recognized expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of skull base chondrosarcomas. If you would like to talk with a specialist, contact us at (800) 822-3627 to request an appointment.

Take the Next Step

Learn more about Tampa General Hospital’s Skull Base Surgery Center and find out if our approach to care is right for you.