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The pituitary gland is a small, pea-sized organ in the brain. It is located behind the back of the nose. It makes hormones that affect many other glands in your body. Most pituitary tumors are not cancerous. But because of where the gland is located, many tumors will press against the optic nerves. This can cause vision problems. Also tumors that make a lot of hormone will make the other endocrine glands make more horomes. That will cause symptoms related to the specific hormone.
Most pituitary tumors do not cause symptoms. As a result, they are not diagnosed. Or they are found only during a routine brain imaging test. Up to 1 in 4 people may have small pituitary tumors without knowing it.
Below are the main types of pituitary tumors.
These tumors are the most common type. They do not make extra hormone. Until they become a certain size, you may not have any symptoms. When the tumor is large enough, it may cause headaches and vision problems.
These benign tumors are also common. They make too much prolactin. If you are a woman, high prolactin levels can cause your menstrual period to be irregular or to stop. These tumors can also cause you to make breast milk. If you are a man, you may have erectile dysfunction or a lack of interest in sex. You may also have enlarged breasts, infertility, or less body hair. In time, you may have headaches and vision problems.
ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to make glucocorticoids. These are steroids that affect metabolism. They act as anti-inflammatory chemicals. They also suppress your immune system. Too much ACTH can cause Cushing's disease. The disease causes a buildup of fat in your face, neck, back, abdomen, and chest. Also your arms and legs tend to become thin. You may also have purple stretch marks and high blood pressure. These tumors can also weaken bones.
These tumors make too much growth hormone. In children, too much growth hormone stimulates the growth of almost all the bones in the body. When that occurs, the result is called gigantism. Gigantism can include increased height (over 7 feet), very quick growth, joint pain, and heavy sweating. In adults, an excess of growth hormone causes a condition called acromegaly. It may include:
Thyroid-stimulating hormone is made by these tumors. They can become large and spread. Symptoms may include:
Cancerous pituitary tumors are rare. They are usually found in older people. But they can occur at any age. These tumors often make hormones, just like many benign pituitary tumors do. In most cases, the only way to tell a cancerous tumor from a benign one is when the tumor spreads to another part of the body several years later.
Your health care provider will ask about your past health and do a physical exam. You may also need one of these tests:
Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
Treatment may include:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.