All your questions about pituitary tumours answered
A pituitary tumour, which can also be known as an adenoma, is a benign (non cancerous) growth that develops from the tissue of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for making and regulating the release of hormones into the blood stream. For this reason, a pituitary tumour can cause an over or under production of a hormone, which can lead to very specific symptoms. A pituitary tumour is not considered a brain and central nervous system tumour as it is a tumour of the endocrine system.
The pituitary gland lies in a small gap, just behind the eyes. It works with part of the brains, such as hypothalamus, which affects the functions. As the tumour grow, it may press on other parts of the brain and nerves, this can lead to symptoms such as headaches or vision problems if it is pressing on the optic nerve.
As mentioned before, the symptoms that a patient experiences will differ depending on whether hormones are under or over producing.
Symptoms of over-production:
Loss of menstrual periods in women
Lowering of testosterone in men leading to loss of sexual appetite
Acromegaly in adults and gigantism in children
Unexpected weight gain
Easy bruising of the skin and muscle weakness
Symptoms of under-production:
Loss of sex drive in men and women, and infertility
Hypothyroidism, which can cause appetite loss, weight gain, fatigue and decreased mental function
Adrenal insufficiency which can cause fatigue, low blood pressure and electrolyte abnormalities
Growth hormone insufficiency which can cause delayed puberty and in adults tiredness and loss of muscle mass
To diagnose a pituitary tumour, the patient will have to be examined by a consultant and may need to have some or all of the following tests:
· MRI and/or CT scans – This helps to should up any abnormalities in the brain
Eye tests –This is used to check the patient’s field of vision and see if the tumour is pressing on an important nerve
Blood tests – High levels of pituitary hormones may indicate a pituitary tumour
There are two different approaches that can be used to remove a pituitary tumour. Your consultant will always discuss your treatment options with you before your go ahead with anything. When deciding the best option for the patient, they will consider the size, location and growth rate of the tumour.
Through the nose, this is called trans-sphenoidal surgery. The pituitary gland is located just above the back of the nose, which gives the surgeon access to the tumour without making an incision.
Through the skull, this is a trans-cranial approach. If the tumour is growing into the brain this method might be suggested as they will have better access to the tumour, although this is not common now.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.