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Pituitary Tumors...

From NCI/PDQ Patient Statement: Pituitary tumor
Affiliations: National Cancer Institute

What are pituitary tumors?

Pituitary tumors are tumors found in the pituitary gland, a small organ about the size of a pea in the center of the brain just above the back of the nose. The pituitary gland makes hormones that affect the growth and the functions of other glands in the body.

Most pituitary tumors are benign. This means that they grow very slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body. This patient information summary covers several types of pituitary tumors. Another type of pituitary tumor, called craniopharyngioma, is covered in the patient information summaries on adult or childhood brain tumors.

If a pituitary tumor is found, the pituitary gland may be making too many hormones. This can cause other problems in the body. Tumors that make hormones are called functioning tumors, while those that do not make hormones are called nonfunctioning tumors.

Certain pituitary tumors can cause a disease called Cushing's disease, in which too many hormones called glucocorticoids are released into the bloodstream. This causes fat to build up in the face, back, and chest, and the arms and legs to become very thin. Other symptoms include too much sugar in the blood, weak muscles and bones, a flushed face, and high blood pressure. Other pituitary tumors can cause a condition called acromegaly. Acromegaly means that the hands, feet, and face are larger than normal; in very young people, the whole body may grow much larger than normal. Another type of pituitary tumors can cause the breasts to make milk (Prolactinoma), even though a woman may not be pregnant; periods may stop as well.

A doctor should be seen if there are symptoms such as headaches, trouble seeing, nausea or vomiting, or any of the symptoms caused by too many hormones.

If there are symptoms, a doctor may order laboratory tests to see what the hormone levels are in the blood. The doctor may also order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, which uses magnetic waves to make a picture of the inside of the brain. Other special X-rays may also be done.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and choice of treatment depend on the type of tumor, and the patient's age and general state of health.

From NCI/PDQ Patient Statement: Pituitary tumor

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