Skull base tumor surgeon: Why you should come to MD Anderson first

As a surgeon, I am motivated by the challenge skull base tumors represent — both their complexity and the impact that they have on our patients. Because not that long ago, many of these tumors were considered incurable. Before skull base surgery was developed as a field, neurosurgeons would go as low as they could go, and head and neck surgeons would go as high as they could go. Both would stop at the skull base — the bony platform behind the eyes and nose that slopes down toward the back of the head. That meant sometimes part of a tumor got left behind — where it could grow right back. Today, we know that skull base tumors are curable. It takes many types of brain and spine and head and neck specialists working together to treat them effectively. But we do that here at MD Anderson. And being involved in that process is the most rewarding part of my job. Why skull base tumors are difficult to diagnose Skull base tumors are rare, so they are often difficult to diagnose. The average doctor will probably see less than a handful in their entire career. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment at a place like MD Anderson — because even rare tumors aren’t rare here. Patients frequently come to us with a particular diagnosis, but when we review their reports with our dedicated head and neck and neuropathologists, we sometimes come to a different conclusion. This happens more than 30% of the time. So, for one out of every three skull base tumor patients, we say, “Nope. You...