Pituitary tumors are usually not cancer and are called pituitary adenomas. They grow slowly and do not spread. Rarely, pituitary tumors are cancer and they can spread to distant parts of the body. Explore the links on this page to learn more about pituitary tumor treatment and clinical trials.

Pituitary Tumors Treatment

  • A pituitary tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the pituitary gland.
  • The pituitary gland hormones control many other glands in the body.
  • Having certain genetic conditions increases the risk of developing a pituitary tumor.
  • Signs of a pituitary tumor include problems with vision and certain physical changes.
  • Imaging studies and tests that examine the blood and urine are used to detect (find) and diagnose a pituitary tumor.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

A pituitary tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the pituitary gland.

Pituitary tumors 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.

Pituitary tumors are divided into three groups:

  • Benign pituitary adenomas: Tumors that are not cancer. These tumors grow very slowly and do not spread from the pituitary gland to other parts of the body.
  • Invasive pituitary adenomas: Benign tumors that may spread to bones of the skull or the sinus cavity below the pituitary gland.
  • Pituitary carcinomas: Tumors that are malignant (cancer). These pituitary tumors spread into other areas of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or outside of the central nervous system. Very few pituitary tumors are malignant.

Pituitary tumors may be either non-functioning or functioning.

  • Non-functioning pituitary tumors do not make extra amounts of hormones.
  • Functioning pituitary tumors make more than the normal amount of one or more hormones. Most pituitary tumors are functioning tumors. The extra hormones made by pituitary tumors may cause certain signs or symptoms of disease.

The pituitary gland hormones control many other glands in the body.

Hormones made by the pituitary gland include:

  • Prolactin: A hormone that causes a woman’s breasts to make milk during and after pregnancy.
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH): A hormone that causes the adrenal glands to make a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol helps control the use of sugar, protein, and fats in the body and helps the body deal with stress.
  • Growth hormone: A hormone that helps control body growth and the use of sugar and fat in the body. Growth hormone is also called somatotropin.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone: A hormone that causes the thyroid gland to make other hormones that control growth, body temperature, and heart rate. Thyroid-stimulating hormone is also called thyrotropin.
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): Hormones that control the menstrual cycle in women and the making of sperm in men.

Having certain genetic conditions increases the risk of developing a pituitary tumor.

Risk factors for pituitary tumors include having the following hereditary diseases:

  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome.
  • Carney complex.
  • Isolated familial acromegaly.

Signs and symptoms of a functioning pituitary tumor

  • Headache.
  • Some loss of vision.
  • Less frequent or no menstrual periods or menstrual periods with a very light flow.
  • Trouble becoming pregnant or an inability to become pregnant.
  • Impotence in men.
  • Lower sex drive.
  • Flow of breast milk in a woman who is not pregnant or breast-feeding.

Stages of Pituitary Tumors

  • Once a pituitary tumor has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if it has spread within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or to other parts of the body.
  • Pituitary tumors are described in several ways.

Recurrent Pituitary Tumors

A recurrent pituitary tumor is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the pituitary gland or in other parts of the body.

There are different types of treatment for patients with pituitary tumors.

Different types of treatments are available for patients with pituitary tumors. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.