Pituitary tumors and related growths that arise around the pituitary gland are relatively common. The most common of these are pituitary adenomas, followed by Rathke’s cleft cysts (RCCs) and craniopharyngiomas. Fortunately, these three tumors types are almost always non-malignant (benign). However, given their location they can cause significant health problems and disability including abnormal pituitary gland hormonal function, vision loss, headaches and bleeding in or around the pituitary gland. Pituitary tumors are best diagnosed by imaging studies, typically a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computer tomography (CT) scan of the brain and pituitary, as well as pituitary hormonal blood tests. The treatment and management of pituitary tumors is usually coordinated by a neurosurgeon and an endocrinologist because the majority of patients with a symptomatic pituitary adenoma, RCCs or craniopharyngioma, will warrant surgical removal of the tumor, and many patients will also have pituitary hormonal problems before and possibly after surgery. The preferred route for removing almost all adenomas, RCCs, and many craniopharyngiomas is through the endonasal transsphenoidal route (through a nostril without facial or lip incisions) as opposed to a craniotomy (surgical removal of a section of the skull, called a bone flap, to access the brain) which is used for removing most other brain tumors. Some types of pituitary adenomas can also be treated with medications to shrink the tumor and lower abnormally elevated hormone levels. Additionally, some pituitary adenomas and craniopharyngiomas that cannot be completely removed surgically are effectively treated with radiotherapy, in which special equipment is used to provide precise dosage of radiation directly to the tumor, either by stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS - one dose) or stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT - multiple doses). (Read More)
Suggested Lab work to discuss with your doctor
The Pituitary Gland is at the anatomical and functional crossroads of the brain, mind and body. Weighing less than one gram and measuring a centimeter in width, the pituitary is often called the "master gland" since it controls the secretion of the body’s hormones. These substances when released by the pituitary into the blood stream have a dramatic and broad range of effects on growth and development, sexuality and reproductive function, metabolism, the response to stress and overall quality of life.
Growth Hormone (GH): This is the principal hormone that, among many other functions, regulates body and brain development, bone maturation, metabolism and is essential for healthy muscles.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): These hormones control the production of sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) as well as sperm and egg maturation and release.
Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH): This hormone triggers the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys) to release the hormone cortisol which in turn, regulates carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism and is essential in the stress response.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH): This hormone stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control basal metabolic rate and play an important role in growth and maturation. Thyroid hormones affect almost every organ in the body.
Prolactin (PRL): This hormone stimulates secretion of breast milk.
Vasopressin – Also called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH): This hormone promotes water reabsorption by the kidneys and is thus essential in water and electrolyte balance.
Download information sheet and/or link to the BTC website for more information about pituitary tumors
Brain Tumor Center
Pituitary Disorders Program
Brain Tumor Center
Endonasal Endoscopic Surgery