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Skull Base cancer

Tumours that occur in the skull base have a specific cell structure, which makes them different from other types of cancers in the head and neck area. Cancer that starts in the neck or spinal area can spread to the skull base, but this is also very rare.

Rutherford Treatment Options

  • Proton Beam Therapy Available
  • Radiotherapy Available
  • Chemotherapy Available
  • Immunotherapy Available

Types of tumours

There are many types of skull base cancers due to the complex makeup of this part of the skull. The three main regions of the skull base, where common types of tumours occur are:

Posterior compartment of the skull base (posterior cranial fossa). The types of tumours that can occur in this region are: 

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Chordoma
  • Epidermoid tumour
  • Meningioma

Central compartment of the skull base (middle cranial fossa). This contains the pituitary gland. The types of tumours that can occur in this region are: 

  • Pituitary adenomas
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Rathke’s cleft cyst

Anterior compartment of the skull base (anterior cranial fossa). This contains the eye sockets and sinuses:

  • Meningioma
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (esthesioneuroblastoma)
  • Paranasal sinus cancer



  • Difficulty swallowing and frequent choking
  • Dizziness, vertigo or loss of balance
  • Pain or numbness in the face
  • Weakness or paralysis in the face
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)


  • Hoarseness, losing your voice
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Lumps on the neck
  • Nosebleeds
  • Recurrent sinus problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vision loss or double vision

If you’d like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer
please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Skull base cancer diagnosis

A diagnosis for skull base cancer may start with some general health assessments and an X-Ray, followed by the below scans and tests if bone cancer is suspected:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan 
  • Bone Biopsy 

If your GP thinks you are experiencing symptoms of skull base cancer, you will be referred to a specialist for scans or biopsies to be carried out.

MRI Diagnosis

Treating skull base cancer with proton beam therapy

Proton beam therapy may be used as a single treatment method for skull base cancer if other types of treatments are not suitable. This usually happens if the cancer has grown too large and surgery cannot be performed to remove it. It can also be used following surgery to remove any remaining cancer cells or if any cancer cells return following previous treatment.

The benefits of using proton beam therapy treatment for skull base cancer

The skull base is very complex and is close to the brain. Radiotherapy treatment used to treat cancers in the skull base should avoid the healthy areas surrounding the tumour. Proton beam therapy can be an effective treatment choice for skull base cancer, as it aims to precisely deliver maximum radiation to the tumour or cancer cells while delivering minimal radiation dose to surrounding healthy tissues, such as the brain, eyes and nasal passage. Reducing the dose to these sensitive areas will minimise long term side effects and will also ensure that the functionality of the brain is maintained.


An overview of how proton beam therapy works

Proton beam therapy is highly accurate in targeting a treatment area. It can be used to treat hard-to-reach tumours in the skull base, while lowering radiation exposure to surrounding healthy parts of the skull such as the brain, eyes, spinal cord and nasal passage.

Watch the video

Other treatment options for skull base cancer

There are other treatment options that can be used to treat skull base cancer, either before, after or alongside proton beam therapy. Please see other treatment options available at the Rutherford Cancer Centres below:







Further information & support

Being diagnosed with skull base cancer and deciding on the best treatment can be daunting, for full details on skull base treatment options or to discuss a diagnosis, please contact our enquiries team. Our enquiries team will endeavour to help you assess your treatment options and advise which consultants could be best placed to plan your treatment pathway.

Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00

(Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)

Website: www.macmillan.org.uk



Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

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