Pituitary Tumors

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What are Pituitary Tumors?

Pituitary tumors (adenomas) are tumors of the pituitary gland. They are almost always benign (not cancers). The pituitary gland normally makes a number of hormones. Some tumors of the pituitary gland make excessive amounts of one or more of these hormones (see Pituitary Tumor Symptoms). These are called "functioning" tumors and cause diseases such as acromegaly, Cushing's disease, and hyperprolactinemia . Other pituitary tumors do not make hormones. These are referred to as "nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma" tumors and may cause symptoms by damaging the normal pituitary gland or compressing surrounding structures.

Types of functioning tumors include:

Pituitary Tumor Information

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  • What are the symptoms of pituitary tumors?

    If pituitary tumors become large, they can cause damage to the pituitary, resulting in hormone deficiencies (hypopituitarism) and/or damage to the surrounding structures. This can include visual loss, which is often characterized by loss of peripheral vision. It can also include headaches. Pituitary tumors that are functioning, i.e. that are secreting excessive pituitary hormones, can cause syndromes with specific symptoms depending on the hormone secreted. These include acromegaly, Cushing's disease, hyperprolactinemia and hyperthyroidism.

  • What are the causes of pituitary tumors?

    The cause of pituitary tumors is unclear. They arise from one abnormal cell that divides repeatedly to form a tumor, which is almost always benign.

  • Complications of pituitary tumors

    When pituitary tumors become large, they can cause pituitary hormone deficiencies (hypopituitarism), as well as damage to surrounding structures. This can result in visual loss, which is usually characterized by loss of peripheral vision. These complications can often, but not always, be reversed with treatment of the pituitary tumor, especially by surgery. Other complications of pituitary tumors depend on the hormone secreted.

  • Preparing for your appointment
    Write down questions to ask your doctor.

    You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in endocrine (hormonal) disorders.

    Special Instructions (If available, please bring):

    • Copies of your medical records/discharge summary/physician notes.
    • A copy of your MRI or CT on a CD.
    • A copy of your lab reports.
    • Bring any medications you are taking with you to your appointment.
    • Please make sure your MGH registration is accurate and up-to-date.

    Our clinic assistants will help you update your hospital registration and insurance information.

    Thank you.

  • How are pituitary tumors diagnosed? ?

    Pituitary tumors are usually diagnosed by an MRI in conjunction with endocrine testing. The testing will determine whether the tumor is functioning or nonfunction and whether hormone replacement is required.

  • How are pituitary tumors treated?

    Treatment depends on the type and size of the tumor. Prolactinomas are usually treated with medication, whereas nonfunctiong tumors, GH-secreting (acromegaly), ACTH-secreting tumors (Cushing's disease) and TSH-secreting tumors (thyrotrope adenomas) usually require transsphenoidal surgery. Medications and radiation are also available as a secondary treatment for many of these disorders.

  • What research is being done on pituitary tumors?
    Research on causes of and treatments for pituitary tumors is ongoing in the Neuroendocrine and Pituitary Tumor Clinical Center. We welcome patient participation in these studies.

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