The pituitary gland is a very small gland of major importance to the functioning of the human body. It is located directly behind the eyes and below the front of the brain. Despite being small in size, the pituitary gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate very critical body organs and glands including the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, and the testicles.
Diagnosis of pituitary tumours
Pituitary tumours are abnormal growths that develop in your pituitary gland. Some pituitary tumours cause excessive production of hormones that regulate important functions of your body. These tumours are not brain tumours because the pituitary gland is located under the brain and is separate from the brain. However, a pituitary tumour is dangerous a pituitary gland that does not work can cause problems with other organs. The tumour can also affect the optic nerves which limits a person’s vision.
Signs and symptoms of pituitary tumours
There are multiple signs and symptoms of pituitary tumours including:
If your doctor suspects a pituitary tumour, he/she may want you to undergo the following tests in order to diagnose a pituitary tumour properly:
Treatment options for pituitary tumours
- Blood and urine tests: Testing of your blood and urine can determine whether you have an inadequate production of hormones.
- Brain imaging: A computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your brain can help your doctor determine the location and size of a pituitary tumour.
- Vision testing: This test enables the doctor to know whether a pituitary tumour has impaired your sight or peripheral vision.
Treatment for a pituitary tumour depends on the type of tumour, its size and how far it has grown into your brain. Different types of doctors often work together to create a patient’s overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. Here are some of the treatment options:
- Surgical removal of a pituitary tumour usually is necessary if the tumour is pressing on the optic nerves, which can cause loss of vision, or if the tumour is over-producing certain hormones.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy tumours. It can be used after surgery or alone as primary treatment if surgery isn’t an option. Radiation therapy is useful if a tumour returns after surgery and causes signs and symptoms that medications don’t relieve.
- Some prolactin-secreting tumours can be treated with a drug treatment that reduces the production of prolactin. These drugs include bromocriptin and cabergoline.
- Hormone replacement therapy is often necessary for patients with a pituitary tumour when the gland is not making enough of a hormone due to the disease.
Watchful waiting may be particularly appropriate if you're older or in poor health. Many people with pituitary tumours function normally without treatment if the tumour isn’t causing other problems.