Navigate Up

Full Library - A-Z Index


Print This Page

Posterior fossa tumor

Posterior fossa tumor is a type of brain tumor located in or near the bottom of the skull.

Alternative Names

Infratentorial brain tumors; Brainstem glioma

Causes

The posterior fossa is a small space in the skull, found near the brainstem and cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for movement, balance, and coordination. The brainstem is responsible for controlling vital body functions, such as breathing.

If a tumor grows in the area of the posterior fossa, it can block the flow of spinal fluid and cause increased pressure on the brain and spinal cord.

Most tumors of the posterior fossa are primary brain cancers . They start in the brain, rather than spreading from somewhere else in the body.

Posterior fossa tumors have no known causes or risk factors.

Symptoms

Symptoms occur very early with posterior fossa tumors and may include:

Symptoms from posterior fossa tumors also occur when the tumor damages local structures, such as cranial nerves. Symptoms of cranial nerve damage include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Eye problems
  • Face muscle weakness
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of feeling in part of the face
  • Taste problems
  • Unsteadiness when walking
  • Vision problems

Exams and Tests

Diagnosis is based on a thorough medical history and physical examination, followed by imaging tests. The best way to look at the posterior fossa is with an MRI scan. CT scans are usually not helpful to see that area of the brain.

The following procedures may be used to remove a piece of tissue from the tumor to help with diagnosis:

  • Open brain surgery, called a posterior craniotomy
  • Stereotactic biopsy

Treatment

Most tumors of the posterior fossa are removed with surgery, even if they are not cancerous. There is limited space in the posterior fossa, and the tumor can easily press on delicate structures if it grows.

Depending on the type and size of the tumor, radiation treatment may also be used after surgery.

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See: Cancer - support group

Outlook (Prognosis)

A good outlook depends on finding the cancer early. A total blockage in the flow of spinal fluid can be life threatening. If tumors are found early, surgery can lead to long-term survival.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have regular headaches that occur with nausea, vomiting, or vision changes.

References

Maity A, Pruitt AA, Judy KD, Phillips PC, Lustig R. Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 70.

Brackmann DE, Arriaga MA. Neoplasms of the posterior fossa. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 177.

Updated: 2/24/2014

Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com