Pituitary Tumor Treatment
Pituitary tumors are abnormal growths on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a small, pea-sized gland at the base of the brain that produces hormones that control many of the functions within the body. A pituitary tumor can affect your body’s production of hormones and interfere with normal bodily functions.
Although they can cause many different health problems, the majority of pituitary tumors are noncancerous. Their cause remains unknown. There are different types of pituitary tumors, which can cause different symptoms.
Symptoms and Types of Pituitary Tumors
Pituitary tumors can decrease or lower hormone production, affecting some bodily functions. Pressure from a pituitary tumor can cause symptoms like headache, vision loss, nausea, vomiting, body hair loss, increased urination, and unintended weight loss or gain. Pituitary tumors can cause excessive production of certain hormones, which can lead to different symptoms.
Excess production of cortisol can lead to a condition called Cushing’s Syndrome, which can cause fat accumulation around the midsection and upper back, facial roundness, and a characteristic hump on the upper back. It can also cause high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle weakness, bruising, stretch marks, thinned skin, anxiety, irritability, and depression.
Excess production of growth hormone, also known as acromegaly, can cause coarsened facial features, enlargement of the hands and feet, excessive sweating, high blood sugar, heart problems, joint pain, misaligned teeth, and increased body hair growth. Acromegaly can also cause accelerated and excessive growth in children.
Overproduction of thyroid-stimulating hormones can cause hyperthyroidism, which can accelerate metabolism. Symptoms include sudden weight loss, rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness, irritability, frequent bowel movements, and feeling warm or hot.
An increase in prolactin can cause a decrease in sex hormones. In women, this can lead to irregular or a lack of menstrual periods and milky discharge from the breasts. In men, it can cause erectile dysfunction, infertility, and loss of sex drive.
Early detection of pituitary tumors is key for the most successful treatment. Treatment for pituitary tumors often requires a team approach, so we may work alongside an endocrinologist or an ophthalmologist to help manage symptoms. These specialists help patients manage hormone levels while we can provide radiation therapy and surgical options to remove or destroy the tumor.
If the tumor can be surgically removed, we may use one of two techniques. With an endoscopic transnasal transsphenoidal approach, the tumor is removed through the nose and sinus cavity, with no need for an external incision. This approach may be recommended for smaller tumors. For larger tumors, a transcranial approach may be best. During the procedure, we remove the tumor by accessing the upper part of the skull through an incision in the scalp.
If the tumor cannot be removed, or it returns after surgery, we may recommend radiation therapy. Gamma Knife radiosurgery allows radiation beams to be focused on the exact location of the tumor to decrease damage to healthy tissues. However, Gamma Knife neurosurgery cannot be performed on tumors near sensitive structures like the optic nerve. External beam radiation is delivered in small increments over a 4 – 6 week period to destroy the tumor. Radiation therapy is often effective, but it can take months or years to see full effectiveness.
Pituitary Tumor Treatment at CNA
At Coast Neurosurgical Associates, our physicians offer a range of treatment options for pituitary tumors. Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive care possible for our patients. If you would like to learn more about pituitary tumor treatment or schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, contact our office at (562) 595-7696.