The pituitary gland sits at the base of the skull and could form a tumor called a pituitary adenoma. However, most pituitary adenomas are small and don’t require treatment, but there are cases in which treatment is necessary. Continue reading to learn more about what pituitary tumors are, when to be concerned, and how to treat them.
The majority of pituitary adenomas are small and do not require any sort of treatment. However, there are two examples when something needs to be done.
- The pituitary gland’s regular purpose is to secrete hormones. When there is an adenoma, most do not secrete excess hormone, but in some cases it will which can cause symptoms to occur. About 40-60% of the time, the tumor will release a hormone called “prolactin” which can cause lactation from the breasts in men and women. However about 30% of the time, the tumor releases a hormone called “growth hormone.” This has different effects depending on if the patient is a child or adult. Lastly, around 15-25% of the time, the tumor releases a hormone called “corticotropin” which can cause obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. If any hormone is being released in excess, the symptoms should be addressed. There are medications and treatments used to handle different forms of hormone secretion.
- Although most adenomas are small, sometimes they may grow large and cause compression symptoms. If the tumor becomes too large, it may press on important brain structures like the optic nerves which could result in loss of vision, so surgery would be necessary.
Evaluation of a pituitary adenoma requires 3 main steps:
It’s necessary to check all the pituitary hormone levels to see which are affected.
Ophthalmology or optometry evaluation
Formal vision tests are important to see if vision has been affected.
A special type of MRI is necessary to identify the adenoma
A patient with a pituitary adenoma should see a neurosurgeon and an endocrinologist.
If surgery is necessary, most pituitary adenomas can be removed in a way that is not too invasive where the incision is not visible. This is usually done by using a camera through the nose. However, if the adenoma is very large, the tumor may need to be partially removed through the nose but also removed with a large incision on the side of the skull.
Some tumors can be treated with radiation, however this typically reserved for tumors that recur after surgery or multiple surgeries.