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Pituitary Tumors - Brain Tumors and Treatment explained by a Neurosurgeon

Pituitary tumors are abnormal growths found in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is located in the center of the brain and is about the size of a dime. The pituitary gland, often referred to as the “master gland,” is responsible for producing growth hormones and controlling many important functions of the body.

Types of pituitary tumors

Most pituitary tumors are non-cancerous, slow growing, and do not spread to other parts of the body. Pituitary tumors that are less than 1 cm in size are called microedenomas, while larger tumors are called macroedenomas. Tumors that secrete hormones can cause serious hormone imbalances that affect a variety of bodily functions. If the tumor is large enough, it can press on other structures in the brain causing severe vision problems.

Symptoms of pituitary tumors
Symptoms of a pituitary tumor are often similar to other conditions and can include:

  • Headache
  • Severe vision problems
  • Loss of menstrual periods in women
  • Abnormal growth
  • Infertility
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heat or cold intolerance
  • Skin changes

Anyone experiencing three or more of these symptoms should undergo further testing that includes hormone testing of the blood and urine and diagnostic imaging such as a MRI. Vision testing may also be necessary.

Treatment
Most pituitary tumors are curable. In many cases if the tumor is small and not secreting any hormones, observation and regular MRIs are all that are necessary to see if the tumor changes over time. If surgery is necessary, there are two main techniques:

  • Transsphenoidal – through the nose. This approach leaves no visible scars on the patient. Small incisions are made at the gum line under the lip.
  • Transcranial – through the skull. If the tumor large, this approach may be necessary.

Radiation can also be used for pituitary tumors, particularly those that return after surgery. In other cases, medications may be used to block the pituitary gland from producing too many hormones.

At Princeton Brain and Spine Care we believe that certain tumors should be managed by surgeons that have a particular focus on this region.