Caring for Your Body, Mind and Spirit
Because You’re More Than Your Diagnosis
When you or a loved one are suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor of any kind — including a pituitary tumor — you can quickly get lost in a haze of medical terms, diagnoses, tests, procedures and treatment options.
But at AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, we see all of you. The concern in your eyes. The worry in your voice. That’s why it’s our mission to be with you every step of the way, easing your mind and lifting your spirit throughout your treatment journey.
Understand Your Pituitary Tumor
Take Charge of Your Health
We’re committed to helping you understand all there is to know about pituitary tumors, from what they are to possible treatment plans.
Learning about your condition can empower you to ask more questions, seek additional resources and be an active participant in your care.
What Is a Pituitary Tumor?
Pituitary tumors begin in the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland helps controls other endocrine glands, such as the thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes.
Pituitary tumors, also called adenomas, are usually benign (non-cancerous). While these tumors don’t spread beyond the pituitary gland, they can still impact the function of the pituitary gland and other endocrine systems in your body.
What Are the Symptoms of Pituitary Tumors?
Pituitary tumor symptoms can vary widely depending on the size of the tumor and how the growth is impacting your hormones. Sometimes, you may not experience any noticeable symptoms at all.
Adrenocorticotropic Hormone-Secreting (ACTH) Tumors
One type of pituitary tumor called adrenocorticotropic hormone-secreting (ACTH) tumors can cause Cushing’s disease. Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:
- Facial roundness
- Fat around the stomach or back
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Stretch marks
- Thinning arms or legs
- Weak bones
Growth Hormone-Secreting Tumors
Pituitary tumors that produce excessive acromegaly (a growth hormone) have unique signs and symptoms like:
- Body hair growth
- Coarse facial features
- Enlarged hands and feet
- Excessive sweating
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Misaligned teeth
Large Pituitary Tumors
Large pituitary tumors, sometimes called a macroadenomas, can put pressure on the pituitary gland and other structures. This pressure can cause symptoms such as headache and vision loss. They can also cause hormonal deficiencies. Signs and symptoms of a deficiency include:
- Feeling cold
- Frequent urination
- Infrequent, or stopped, menstrual periods
- Sexual dysfunction
- Unintended weight loss or gain
Prolactinoma causes estrogen (women) and testosterone (men) levels to decrease.
For women, a pituitary tumor that’s causing an overproduction of prolactin may cause:
- Discharge from the breast
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Lack of periods
Men experience different symptoms caused by prolactinoma, such as:
- Breast growth
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of sex drive
- Lowered sperm count
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone-Secreting Tumors
A pituitary tumor can cause the thyroid to produce too much thyroxine. This effect can increase your body’s metabolism and cause symptoms such as:
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent bowel movements
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Weight loss
How Is a Pituitary Tumor Diagnosed?
Based on your symptoms and medical history, several tests can help determine if you have a pituitary tumor. The results of these tests can help your neurologist make a pituitary tumor diagnosis:
- Blood and urine tests to check hormone levels
- Imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine the size and location of a tumor
- Vision test to check your eyesight
What Causes a Pituitary Tumor?
Unfortunately, the causes of pituitary tumors aren’t quite clear. Because they do not have lifestyle-related or environmental risk factors, these tumors aren’t preventable. Some pituitary tumors stem from genetic conditions, both inherited conditions and non-hereditary ones.
But, regardless of causes, you and your family aren’t alone in this diagnosis. Your health care team is here to surround you with support, empowering you with answers and explaining the treatment options every step of the way.
Pituitary Tumor Risk Factors
Unlike some other tumors, pituitary tumors have very few known risk factors, and they aren’t usually caused by lifestyle or environmental factors. Instead of being caused by factors like family history or obesity, pituitary tumors can be the result of a genetic syndrome that can cause abnormal growths. Some of these syndromes may include:
- Carney complex, a rare syndrome which may cause pituitary tumors
- McCune-Albright syndrome, which develops in the womb
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia, types I and IV, conditions which increase the risk of developing tumors in glands like the pituitary gland
Whether you are facing one of these genetic conditions or not, our team will work hand-in-hand with you to help you understand your treatment options and the path to healing.
How Is a Pituitary Tumor Treated?
Sometimes, a pituitary tumor doesn’t need to be treated. Instead, your doctor will closely monitor you for signs that it’s growing or impacting other areas of your brain.
If you do require treatment, take comfort in knowing there are many successful approaches to help you feel better.
Gamma Knife® Radiosurgery
Despite its name, Gamma Knife is not a surgical procedure. It targets and treats tumors with precision to minimize damage to healthy tissue.
Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help regulate hormone production. Some medication can be used to shrink tumor size. You’ll work closely with your entire care team to learn which medication is best for you.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill tumor cells. There are several different types of radiation, including:
- External radiation therapy
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Proton beam therapy
Your doctor may recommend surgery if the tumor is pressing on your optic nerve and impacting your vision. Depending on the size and location of your pituitary tumor, surgery may include craniotomy and
endoscopic transnasal surgery. Your doctor will discuss which approach is right for you.
Specialized Pituitary Tumor Care Close to Home
When you’re facing a pituitary tumor diagnosis, you want an experienced, compassionate team by your side. That’s what you’ll find at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute. Our entire team is dedicated to healing your body, mind and spirit.