Pituitary tumors arise from the pituitary gland of the brain, which regulates several hormones of the body. These tumors are generally benign adenomas that do not spread to other areas. The symptoms associated with a pituitary tumor depend on the size and type of adenoma. Larger pituitary tumors can cause compression of the surrounding brain structures, leading to vision loss, headache, or nausea/vomiting.
For pituitary tumors that affect hormone levels, the symptoms experienced relate to the specific type of hormones secreted or lost because of the adenoma. These symptoms can include: fatigue, weakness, cold intolerance, sexual dysfunction, constipation, weight loss or weight gain, enlarged hands and feet, high blood pressure, changes in menstrual cycle, lactation. Typically, pituitary tumors are evaluated with a combination of brain imaging such as MRI, vision testing and blood tests checking levels of various hormones.
Treatment depends on the size and symptoms caused by the pituitary tumor. There are different treatment options which include medications and surgery to remove the tumor. Treatment is directed by a neurosurgeon and an endocrinologist in conjunction with a patient's primary care doctor. Surgery is reserved for those pituitary tumors that are compressing nearby brain structures or those that are overproducing hormones.
There are two main approaches used to remove these tumors. Surgeons can either access the tumor through the nose via a tanssphenoidal surgery, leaving no visible outside scar. For larger tumors, surgeons may opt to use a craniotomy, which involves making an incision in the scalp and open the skull.
Other treatment options include radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, medications or careful observation in which the pituitary tumor is periodically monitored without treatment. This option is typically reserved for those individuals who are not experiencing any symptoms. The prognosis for pituitary tumors or pituitary adenomas is generally good thanks to the many effective treatment options.