Published: Tue, March 14, 2017
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Pituitary tumor | University of Maryland Medical Center

Pituitary tumor | University of Maryland Medical Center

It is an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that regulates the balance of many hormones in the pituitary gland. Pituitary tumor (pituitary tumor); Pituitary tumor (pituitary tumor); Pituitary tumor (pituitary tumor); Pituitary adenoma


Most pituitary tumors are not cancerous (benign). Up to 20% of people have pituitary tumors. Many of these tumors do not cause symptoms and are never diagnosed during the person's life. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine gland that is located at the base of the brain and helps control the secretion of Hormones from other endocrine glands, such as the thyroid, sexual glands, and adrenal glands. The pituitary also secretes hormones that directly affect body tissues, such as the bones and mammary glands. These hormones include the following:

Corticotropin (ACTH) Growth Hormone (HC) Prolactin < Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) Luteinizing hormone (HL) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) Ul>

As the pituitary tumor grows, damage may occur in normal cells secreting hormones from the pituitary gland. This causes the pituitary not to produce enough of its hormones, a condition called hypopituitarism.

The causes of pituitary tumors are unknown. Some are part of an inherited disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia I (NEM I).

The pituitary gland may be affected by brain tumors that develop in the same part of the brain, causing symptoms.


Tests and exams

The doctor will perform a physical exam. You will notice any problems of double vision and visual field, such as loss of lateral (peripheral) vision or ability to see in certain areas.

Among the endocrine function tests that can be ordered are:

Tests that help confirm the diagnosis include:

Visual field Magnetic resonance imaging of the head Treatment is often necessary to remove the tumor, especially if the tumor is pressing the optic nerves (the nerves that control vision).

Most of the time, pituitary tumors can be surgically removed through the nose and paranasal sinuses. If the tumor can not be removed in this way, this is done through the skull (transcranial).

Radiotherapy can be used to reduce the size of the tumor in people who can not undergo surgery. It can also be used if the tumor returns after surgery.

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In some cases, medications are prescribed to reduce the size of certain types of tumors. If the tumor can be removed surgically, the prognosis is acceptable to good, depending on whether the entire tumor is removed.

The most serious complication is blindness, which can occur if the optic nerve is severely damaged.

The tumor or its removal can cause permanent hormonal imbalances. It may be necessary to replace the affected hormones and you may need to take medications for the rest of your life.

Surgery can sometimes damage the posterior pituitary (back of the gland). This can lead to diabetes insipidus, a disease with symptoms of frequent urination and extreme thirst.

If you develop any symptoms of a pituitary tumor, consult your doctor.


Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Pituitary masses and tumors. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011: chap 9.

Molitch ME. Previous pituitary. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011: chap 231.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/7/2013
  • Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor Of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & amp; Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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