Krisha McCoy, MS
The pituitary is a small complicated gland at the base of the brain. It makes several important hormones that regulate growth and the activity of several other major glands throughout the body. A pituitary adenoma is an abnormal growth, or tumor, in this gland. Pituitary adenomas are benign. This means they are not cancerous. They do not spread to other parts of the body. The growths can lead to visionproblems because it is near the eyes. It can also lead to growth problems. It often can also disrupt the hormonal balance of the thyroid, adrenal, and gonads.
The cause is unknown. Some tumors are part of other endocrine disorders and are associated with genetic changes. These can be inherited.
Tumors can also be a result of exposure to cancer causing substances like radiation. In some cases the DNA changes may occur for no known reason.
Factors that increase your chance of pituitary adenoma include:
Symptoms can vary quite a bit and may not be present at all. It will depend on whether or not the tumor is secreting hormones and how large it is. The tumor's location at the base of the brain can also cause symptoms.
General symptoms due to size may include:
In addition to the above, symptoms from Prolactin Secreting Adenoma (40% of all cases)
Symptoms from Thyrotropin-secreting Adenoma
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
Symptoms from Corticotropin-secreting Adenoma:
Growth Hormone-secreting Adenoma
Pituitary adenomas may also be associated with the following conditions:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be referred to an endocrinologist. This is a doctor that specialized on glands and hormones. Tests may include:
Treatment depends on the presence and type of hormones being secreted. It is not uncommon for these treatment options to be used in combination. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.
Treatment options include:
Surgery is often done to remove the tumor. The rest of the normal pituitary gland may be damaged during surgery. This can be treated by replacing the missing hormones with pills or other forms of hormone replacement.
Medications can control symptoms and sometimes shrink the tumor. They can block hormone secretion.
For the majority of adenomas, that are prolactin or growth hormone secreting, medications may include:
Radiation therapy involves the use of radiation to kill tumor cells. The types of radiation therapy used to treat pituitary adenomas include:
There are no guidelines for preventing a pituitary adenoma.
American Cancer Society
Pituitary Network Association
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Health Network
Becker A, Daly AF: The clinical, pathological, and genetic features of familial isolated pituitary adenomas.
Eur J Endocrinol
Beshay VE, Beshay JE, Halvorson LM: Pituitary tumors: diagnosis, management, and implications for reproduction.
Semin Reprod Med
Detailed guide: pituitary tumor. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/CRI_2_3x.asp?rnav=cridg&dt=61. Accessed November 8, 2005.
Pituitary tumors information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/pituitary_tumors/pituitary_tumors.htm. Accessed November 8, 2005.
Pituitary tumors (PDQ): treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/pituitary/patient. Accessed November 8, 2005.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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