Pituitary tumors are growths that form on the pituitary gland located in the base of the brain. They’re most always benign, or noncancerous, and don’t spread to other parts of the body. Another name for benign pituitary tumors is pituitary adenomas.
One type is called a functioning pituitary tumor. This type of tumor can make the pituitary gland overproduce normal hormones. This causes different problems because these hormones are involved in important body functions.
Other types of benign pituitary tumors can grow and put pressure on parts of the brain. These are called nonfunctioning pituitary tumors.
Pituitary Tumor Symptoms
Symptoms of benign pituitary tumors vary depending on the type. Some do not cause symptoms at all.
Functioning pituitary tumors first develop in cells that produce normal hormones. This can impact certain hormones — like prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and growth hormones — and make the body produce too much of them. This can affect metabolism, growth, reproduction and other functions, and lead to other conditions like hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.
Nonfunctioning pituitary tumors first develop in cells that do not naturally produce hormones. These tumors can grow quite large. They can press on the brain and other parts of the nervous system even before symptoms begin.
The symptoms are related to their size and the part of the brain they press against. These tumors can cause problems with the eyes and vision.
Depending on the type, symptoms of a pituitary tumor can include:
- Vision problems
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of interest in sex
- Sexual dysfunction
- High blood pressure
- Facial roundness
- Increased body hair
- Enlarged hands and feet
- Increased sweating
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Amenorrhea (when you don’t get your monthly period) at an early age
- Milky breast discharge
Many of these symptoms are like other conditions. That’s why it’s important to see a specialist with expertise in pituitary tumors.
Pituitary Tumor Treatment at Valley
Surgery is often the main treatment for benign pituitary tumors, but there are other options. Our team works together to customize care to your specific needs. With early, correct treatment, we can get you back to feeling better, as soon as possible.
Depending on your type of tumor, its size, and your symptoms, we may use one or more of the following treatments:
- Medicines: We may prescribe medicines to reduce symptoms by blocking excess production of certain hormones.
- Hormone replacement therapy: This therapy increases hormones when the body doesn’t make enough, either due to the tumor or from treatment.
- Radiation therapy: We may use high-energy radiation beams to destroy tumors. We offer technologies such as stereotactic radiosurgery that precisely target tumors and protect nearby healthy cells.
- Gamma Knife radiosurgery: This advanced form of radiation focuses multiple beams of high-dose gamma radiation to shrink tumors. It’s non-invasive, which means there are no cuts involved.
- Brain surgery: We remove the tumor, or the entire pituitary gland, using the least invasive techniques possible.
Because some benign pituitary tumors do not need treatment, we may regularly monitor your tumor for changes before starting treatment. We call this watchful waiting.
Benign Pituitary Tumor Removal
Valley surgeons are highly experienced in removing pituitary tumors. We perform the latest, minimally invasive brain surgeries including microscopic or endoscopic endonasal surgery that offers faster healing and an easier recovery. This advanced procedure allows us to access the tumor through the nose without cuts on the outside of the body.
For larger tumors, we may perform open surgery by removing a small piece of skull to access the brain, called a craniotomy.
At Valley, we help you understand your surgery, and what to expect at every step. We’re here for you before and after to make sure you’re healing well and feeling better.
Why Choose Valley for Pituitary Tumor Care?
- Excellent care and convenience: Valley offers the excellence of an academic center in a community setting. Our neurosurgeons offer well-planned and extremely precise procedures using the latest techniques. We have a dedicated neuroscience intensive care unit with a staff that’s skilled to provide specialized brain surgery recovery. And at Valley, our neurosurgeons, not residents, perform your surgery. You don’t have to go far from home for the highest level of care.
- The latest operative technologies: We perform surgery with advanced tools like brain mapping and frameless navigation. Brain mapping creates a 3D model that pinpoints precisely where the tumor is located and the best way to get there. Frameless navigation uses CT or MRI imaging to guide surgery. These technologies can mean less damage to healthy brain tissue and better outcomes.
- Care from multiple specialists: Valley neurosurgeons work with a team of specialists, including radiation oncologists, endocrinologists and many others to care for you. Your care team may also include dietitians, social workers, physical therapists occupational therapists, and speech therapists.
- Gamma Knife Center: For pituitary tumors, Gamma Knife radiosurgery may be an alternative to brain surgery or whole-brain radiation. Our team creates a specific treatment plan for your tumor. Gamma Knife can mean an easier recovery with less post-procedural pain compared to brain surgery, and less damage to healthy brain tissue compared to whole-brain radiation.
- Nurse navigators for your support: We take time to explain your condition, and how it’s treated. Our neuroscience nurse navigator guides you along the way, scheduling care and offering everything you need to feel supported.