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Pituitary Tumors

Baylor Scott & White Neuro-Oncology Associates

What Is A Pituitary Tumor?

A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland which is a small gland in the brain located in the back of the nose. Pituitary glands make hormones that affect many other glands and many functions in your body. Most pituitary tumors are not cancerous and don't spread to other parts of your body, but can cause the pituitary to make too few or too many hormones, causing problems in the body. The following are the main types of pituitary tumors:

  • Nonfunctional adenomas
  • Prolactin-producing tumors
  • ACTH-producing tumors
  • Growth hormone-producing tumors

What Are The Symptoms Of Pituitary Tumors?

Symptoms of pituitary tumors depend on the type of tumor and the affected area of the pituitary gland. These tumors can lead to symptoms caused by too much or too little of the pituitary hormones. Each person's symptoms may vary and may also look like other health problems. Always see your physician for a diagnosis.

What Causes Pituitary Tumors?

The cause of pituitary tumors is unknown, but a condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type I (MEN 1) may raise your risk. This condition is passed down through families.

What Are The Treatments For Pituitary Tumors?

Your physician will figure out the best treatment for you based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle certain medicines
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion and preference

Treatment may include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor; this is often a better option for smaller tumors.
  • External radiation (external beam therapy); this treatment sends high levels of radiation right to the cancer cells. Special shields may be used to protect the tissue around the treatment area. These treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.
  • Radiosurgery (stereotactic radiosurgery) or gamma knife treatment; this uses one high dose of radiation sent right into the cancerous tissue and causes less damage to nearby tissues. It is not actually surgery, but like surgery; it is a one session treatment that removes the tumor.
  • Medication; different types of medicine may be used to control how much growth hormone is made by the tumor
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