Pituitary Tumors

Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary gland produces hormones that affect growth and the functions of other glands in the body. Certain pituitary tumors secrete abnormally high amounts of their respective hormones and cause related symptoms. Other pituitary tumors do not secrete hormones, but grow and compress brain tissue, causing other symptoms.

Characteristics

  • Named for its location on or near the pituitary gland, located at the center of the brain behind and above the nose
  • Can range from low grade to high grade
  • May cause excessive secretion of hormones
  • Common among men and women in their 50s-80s
  • Accounts for about 13 percent of all brain tumors

Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Vision loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Behavioral and cognitive changes
  • Cessation of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • Leaking of fluid from the breasts (galactorrhea)
  • Hair growth in women
  • Impotence in men
  • Abnormal growth of hands and feet
  • Abnormal weight gain

Treatment

If the tumor is large or compressing the optic nerve, standard treatment is surgery. This can be transphenoidal surgery, which gets access to the tumor by entering through the nasal passage. Radiation therapy may also be used. Some pituitary tumors may be treated with medication, and/or observed with MRI scans. Certain drugs can block the pituitary gland from making too many hormones. Follow up with an endocrinologist may be necessary to manage hormonal changes.

Learn more about other tumor types.

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