Pituitary Adenoma

Adenomas are noncancerous tumors that typically develop in the pituitary gland – a pea-sized organ behind the eyes that regulates growth, development, metabolism and reproduction. Microadenomas are less than one centimeter, while macroadenomas are larger than one centimeter.

Overview

Symptoms

There are two kinds of pituitary adenomas: functioning (which produce hormones) and nonfunctioning (which do not). Symptoms will vary based on which type of tumor you have.

The hormones secreted by functioning adenomas include: adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), a hormone that regulates cortisone and the stress-response system; antidiuretic hormone (ADH), a hormone that helps the body retain water and constrict blood vessels; human growth hormone (HGH), a hormone that stimulates the growth of cells; luteinizing hormone/follicle stimulating hormone, hormones that regulate the female reproductive system; prolactin, a hormone that stimulates lactation (milk production) and regulates the reproductive system; and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone that can affect metabolism.

Symptoms of a pituitary adenoma may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Change in hair growth
  • Growth in hands or feet
  • In women, menstrual or breast changes
  • In men, changes in sexual response, such as erectile dysfunction
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Vision changes
  • Weight gain

Adenomas can cause complications, including:

  • Blindness
  • Weakened bones (osteoporosis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Kidney stones
  • Hormone deficiencies
  • Diabetes

Diagnosis

First, you’ll meet with your doctor for a physical exam and to discuss your symptoms. Next, your doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood and urine tests to measure hormone and blood sugar levels
  • An MRI or CT scan to help locate the tumor
  • Inferior petrosal sinus sampling, in which small tubes are guided through the veins to collect a blood sample from the pituitary gland
  • A vision screening to check if your eyesight has been affected

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Treatment Options

If you’ve got a pituitary adenoma, your expert neurosurgical team will work with you to find the best treatment. Treatments may include:

  • The Expanded Endonasal Approach (EEA), a minimally invasive procedure in which the tumor is removed through the nasal passages, resulting in no incisions, a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery using CyberKnife® technology, in which a non-invasive, robotic system delivers high radiation therapy to tumors with pinpoint accuracy
  • Radiation therapy, where multiple narrow radiation beams (light energy) precisely target the tumor
  • Medications to lower hormone levels

Because pituitary adenomas can reoccur, regular follow-up visits are recommended.

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