Carcinoma is a type of cancer that occurs in epithelial cells. Epithelial cells form tissues that cover your body such as skin. Epithelial cells also form connective, nerve and muscle tissue inside the body. Squamous cells are those cells that do not make pigments that color the skin. (When the cells that produce pigment are affected by cancer, this is called melanoma.)
Squamous cell carcinoma of the skull base occurs when the cancer either starts or grows to reach the skull base. The skull base is the area behind the eyes and nose.
Skull base tumors can be very difficult to treat because the spinal cord and important blood vessels and nerves go through the skull base. Surgery or treatment of skull base tumors can also be difficult because of the many nerves and blood vessels in the area.
The Vanderbilt Skull Base Center includes some of the country's foremost surgeons with extensive experience in diagnosing and treating skull base tumors.
These tests can help diagnose skull base tumors:
Once a growth is identified, your doctor may order a biopsy. A biopsy is removing a piece of the tissue to see if it is made of cancer cells. If it is, your team will use information from the inspection of the tissue, plus the images of the cancerous area, to determine a treatment plan.
Your team of medical professionals at Vanderbilt will include an oncologist (a doctor who treats cancer). A plastic surgeon may also need to operate to return your face or head to its normal shape.
Depending on the location of the cancer, squamous cell carcinoma of the skull base may be treated by:
Depending on the location and size of the tumor, the surgeon may need to cut into the face or head. Sometimes he or she will need to remove a piece of bone in order to reach the tumor.
In other cases, endoscopic surgery is possible. Endoscopic surgery uses thin tubes with cameras and surgical tools to help the surgeon remove the cancer with the smallest possible cut (incision).
In some cases, squamous cell carcinoma is not curable. This may occur when the cancer cells are in the area around the eyes or the cancer has grown (metastasized) to affect the brain.