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A pituitary tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the pituitary gland, a pea-sized organ in the center of the brain, just above the back of the nose. Most pituitary tumors are noncancerous growths (called adenomas). Adenomas stay in your pituitary gland or surrounding tissues and don't spread to other parts of your body.
Pituitary Tumor: What You Need to Know
A pituitary tumor is best managed by a group of specialists that include endocrinologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, nurses and patient support specialists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.
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What is a Pituitary Tumor?
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.
A pituitary tumor falls into one of three groups:
- Benign pituitary adenoma: A tumor that is not cancer. These tumors grow very slowly and do not spread from the pituitary gland to other parts of the body.
- Invasive pituitary adenoma: A noncancerous tumor that may spread to the bones of the skull or the sinus cavity below the pituitary gland.
- Pituitary carcinoma: A tumor that is cancerous (malignant). 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.
Additionally, your pituitary tumor may be either non-functioning or functioning. A non-functioning pituitary tumor does not make hormones. A functioning pituitary tumor makes 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 symptoms.
A pituitary tumor may not cause symptoms. If it does, there are a wide variety of possible pituitary tumor symptoms that may be caused by the growth of the tumor and/or by hormones the tumor makes, including:
- Cushing's syndrome
- Vision loss, particularly loss of peripheral vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Runny or drippy nose (cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord leaks into the nose)
- Less frequent or no menstrual periods
- Milky discharge from the breasts in women
- Increased growth of body hair or body hair loss
- Sexual dysfunction
- Infertility in men
- Increased frequency and amount of urination
- Unintended weight loss or gain
- Sudden weight loss
- Coarsened facial features
- Enlarged hands and feet
- Excess sweating
- High blood sugar
- Heart problems
- Joint pain
- Misaligned teeth
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Nervousness or irritability
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent bowel movements
- Feeling warm or hot
The exact cause of uncontrolled cell growth in the pituitary gland, creating a pituitary tumor, is unknown. However, several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including:
- Age: A pituitary tumor can happen at any age, but they're most likely to occur in older adults
- Hereditary genetic conditions:
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome
- Carney complex
- Isolated familial acromegaly
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