Pituitary tumours - all your questions answered
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
A pituitary tumour 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 that go into our blood stream. Hormone levels can have a major affect on the way that we function and react to day to day activities; this means that the symptoms associated with a pituitary tumour can be very specific and linked to a change in hormones.
The pituitary gland is located just behind the eyes. As the pituitary tumour grow, it may press on other parts of the brain and nerves. Patients will often experience symptoms such as headaches or vision problems if it is pressing on the optic nerve.
The symptoms that patients with a pituitary tumour experience are linked to the change in hormone level. The symptoms of an over-production of hormones differ to the symptoms that are caused by an under-production of hormones
Symptoms of over-production:
Loss of periods (women)
Lowering of testosterone leading to loss of sexual appetite (men)
Acromegaly in adults and gigantism in children (over production of growth hormones)
Unexpected weight gain
Easy bruising of the skin and muscle weakness
Symptoms of under-production:
Loss of sex drive and infertility (men and women)
Appetite loss, weight gain, fatigue and decreased mental function (Hypothyroidism)
Fatigue, low blood pressure and electrolyte abnormalities (adrenal insufficiency)
Delayed puberty or tiredness and loss of muscle mass in adults
To diagnose a pituitary tumour it is likely that you will need to have 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 if the tumour is pressing on an important nerve
Blood tests – Hormone abnormalities can be picked up in this test
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 you 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. By using this surgical option the tumour can be removed without making any incisions.
Through the skull, this is called a trans-cranial approach. If the tumour is growing into the brain this method might be suggested as they will have better access , however this method is not very common.
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.