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A tumour that forms in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ at the base of the brain. It makes hormones that affect other glands and many of the body’s functions, including growth. Symptoms depend on the hormones affected by the tumour. Most pituitary tumours are benign (not cancer) and many do not cause any symptoms.
Pituitary tumours form in the pituitary gland, a pea-sized organ in the center of the brain, just above the back of the nose. The pituitary gland is sometimes called the "master endocrine gland" because it makes hormones that affect the way many parts of the body work. It also controls hormones made by many other glands in the body.
Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.
Pituitary tumours are divided into three groups:
Pituitary tumours may be either non-functioning or functioning.
Pituitary adenomas are benign, slow-growing tumours. Pituitary carcinoma is the rare malignant form of pituitary adenoma. It is diagnosed only when there is proven spread (metastases) inside or outside the nervous system.Symptoms are caused when the growing tumour pushes on surrounding structures. This pressure can result in headache, visual impairment, and behavioral changes.tumours can also either produce excessive amounts of hormone or limit how much hormone is produced. The hormones most commonly affected include: growth hormone (regulates body height and structure), prolactin (controls lactation, or milk production), sex hormones (control the menstrual cycle and other sexual functions), thyroid gland hormones (control the thyroid gland), adrenal gland hormones, and vasopressin (a hormone involved in water and electrolyte balance).Because the pituitary gland impacts so many of the body’s functions, a multi-disciplinary approach to tumour treatment is needed to ensure the best possible outcome.Treatment of pituitary adenoma or carcinoma usually includes surgery to remove it. In some cases, however drug therapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumour without surgery. Radiation can be used to treat a persistent and/or recurring tumour that does not respond to medication, as long as the tumour is secreting hormone. For tumours that do not secrete hormone, radiation may be used following partial removal, or if the tumour was invasive. Replacement hormone therapy is often prescribed following surgery and/or radiation.
Hormones made by the pituitary gland include:
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for pituitary tumours include having the following hereditary diseases:
Symptoms can be caused by the growth of the tumour and/or by hormones the tumour makes. Some tumours may not cause symptoms. Conditions other than pituitary tumours can cause the symptoms listed below. Check with your doctor if you have any of these problems.
Signs and symptoms of a non-functioning pituitary tumour
Sometimes, a pituitary tumour may press on or damage parts of the pituitary gland, causing it to stop making one or more hormones. Too little of a certain hormone will affect the work of the gland or organ that the hormone controls. The following symptoms may occur:
Most of the tumours that make LH and FSH do not make enough extra hormone to cause symptoms. These tumours are considered to be non-functioning tumours.
Signs and symptoms of a functioning pituitary tumour
When a functioning pituitary tumour makes extra hormones, the symptoms will depend on the type of hormone being made.
Too much prolactin may cause:
Too much ACTH may cause:
Too much growth hormone may cause:
Too much thyroid-stimulating hormone may cause:
Other general signs and symptoms of pituitary tumours:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
The following tests may be done on the sample of tissue that is removed:
The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on the type of tumour and whether the tumour has spread into other areas of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or outside of the central nervous system to other parts of the body.
Treatment options depend on the following:
For more information on Pituitary tumours click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
Information has also been sourced from abta.org
Page last updated: 07/05/2020