Pituitary Tumor

Pituitary Tumor

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A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that regulates the body's balance of hormones. Most pituitary tumors are noncancerous (benign). Many people who have pituitary tumors never develop symptoms so the tumors go unnoticed.

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain just above the back of the nose. The pituitary helps control the release of hormones from other endocrine glands, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands. The pituitary also releases hormones that directly affect body tissues, such as bones and the breast's milk glands.

Pituitary tumors are divided into three groups:

  • Benign pituitary adenomas: (tumors that are not cancer). These tumors grow very slowly and spread from the pituitary gland to other parts of the body.
  • Invasive pituitary adenomas: (benign tumors). These tumors may spread to bones of the skull or the sinus cavity below the pituitary gland.
  • Pituitary carcinomas: (tumors that are malignant/cancerous). These 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 tumors do not make hormones which functioning tumors make more than the normal amount of one or more hormones. Most pituitary tumors are functioning tumors and extra hormones produced by the tumors may cause certain signs and symptoms.

Symptoms of a non-functioning pituitary tumor

Sometimes, a pituitary tumor may press on or damage parts of the pituitary gland causing it to stop making one or more hormones. Too little of a certain hormone will affect the work or the gland or organ that the hormone controls.

  • Headache.
  • Some loss of vision.
  • Loss of body hair.
  • In women, less frequent or not menstrual periods or no milk from breasts after pregnancy.
  • In men, loss of facial hair, growth of breast tissue, and impotence.
  • In women and men, lower sex drive.
  • In children, slowed growth and sexual development.

Symptoms of a functioning pituitary tumor

When a functioning pituitary tumor makes extra hormones, the symptoms will depend on the type of hormone being made.

Too much prolactin may cause:

  • Headache.
  • Some loss of vision.
  • Less frequent or no menstrual periods or menstrual periods with 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.

Too much ACTH may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Weight gain in the face, neck and trunk of the body, and thin arms and legs.
  • A lump of fat on the back of the neck.
  • Thin skin that may have purple or pink stretch marks on chest or abdomen.
  • Easy bruising.
  • Growth of fine hair on the face, upper back, or arms.
  • Fragile bones
  • Anxiety, irritability, and depression.

Too much growth hormone may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • In adults, growth of bones in the face, hands and feet (acromegaly).
  • In children, the body may grow much taller and larger than normal.
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers.
  • Snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep.
  • Joint pain.
  • Sweating more than usual.
  • Dysmorphobia (extreme dislike or concern about one or more parts of the body)

Too much thyroid-stimulating hormone may cause:

  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Shakiness
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Sweating

Other general signs and symptoms of pituitary tumors

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Runny or drippy nose

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