What are pituitary tumors?
Pituitary tumors are noncancerous tumors that develop in the pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland located just below the brain behind the nasal cavity. This gland is often referred to as the “master gland” because it controls the function of many other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland secretes hormones responsible for growth, metabolism regulation, fluid balance, testosterone/estrogen regulation, sperm/egg production, and milk production after birth. Tumors can grow inside of the gland and are rather common.
What causes pituitary tumors?
The cause of these tumors remains unknown. A very small percentage of pituitary tumors are hereditary and some scientists believe genetic alterations play an important role in the development of these tumors.
What are the symptoms?
Many people with pituitary tumors never know they have them because it does not cause any health problems. When noticed, non-functioning pituitary tumors most commonly cause headaches and vision changes, and functioning tumors secrete hormones that disrupt the hormone balance in the body.
How are pituitary tumors treated?
Most pituitary tumors are removed by a procedure called transsphenoidal tumor resection. This surgery is a minimally invasive treatment method performed through the nose with a small camera and long instruments. A neurosurgeon along with a team of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeons will use an endoscope, microscope, or both to remove the tumor through the nose and sphenoid sinus. Transsphenoidal surgery typically takes about two to three hours and the patient will stay in the hospital for one to two days. If the patient is suffering from vision problems prior to the surgery, meeting with an ophthalmologist may be necessary. This procedure often restores vision and hormone problems.