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Alternative Names Return to topTumor - pituitary
Definition Return to top
A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that regulates the body's balance of hormones.
Causes Return to top
The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary regulates and controls the release of hormones from other endocrine glands, which in turn regulate many body processes. These hormones include:
About 75% of pituitary tumors release hormones. When a tumor produces too much of one or more hormones, the following conditions may occur:
As the tumor grows, hormone-secreting cells of the pituitary may be damaged, causing hypopituitarism.
The causes of pituitary tumors are unknown, although some are a part of a hereditary disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia I (MEN I).
There are other types of tumors that can be found in the same area of the head as a pituitary tumor:
About 15% of tumors in the skull are pituitary tumors. Most pituitary tumors are located in the anterior pituitary lobe and are usually noncancerous (benign).
Pituitary tumors develop in about 20% of people, although many of the tumors do not cause symptoms and the condition is never diagnosed during the person's lifetime.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms associated with pituitary tumors include:
Symptoms only in women:
Symptoms only in men:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination and will note any problems with double vision and visual field, such as loss of peripheral vision or the ability to see in certain areas.
Endocrine function tests include:
Tests that help confirm the diagnosis include the following:
Treatment Return to top
Pituitary tumors are usually not cancerous and therefore won't spread to other areas of the body. However, they can cause serious problems by putting pressure on important nerves and blood vessels.
Surgery to remove the tumor is often necessary, especially if the tumor is pressing on the optic nerves, which could cause blindness.
Most of the time, pituitary tumors can be removed through the nose and sinuses. However, some tumors cannot be removed this way and will require removal through the skull (transcranial).
Radiation therapy may be used to shrink the tumor, either in combination with surgery or for people who cannot undergo surgery.
The following medications may shrink certain types of tumors:
Support Groups Return to top
The Pituitary Network Association -- www.pituitary.org
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
If the tumor can be surgically removed, the outlook is fair to good, depending upon whether the entire tumor is removed.
Possible Complications Return to top
The most serious complication is blindness, which can occur if the optic nerve is seriously damaged.
Permanent hormonal imbalances may be caused by the tumor or its removal. This may require replacement of the affected hormones.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you develop any symptoms of a pituitary tumor.
References Return to top
Ezzat S, Asa SL, Couldwell WT, et al. The prevalence of pituitary adenomas. Cancer. 2004 Aug 1;101(3):613-9. Review.
Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Anterior Pituitary. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 8.Update Date: 3/18/2008 Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.