What Is a Pituitary Tumor?

A pituitary tumor is a type of tumor that develops in the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the body’s hormone production. The pituitary gland is located just above the nasal passages and is connected to the hypothalamus part of the brain. Most pituitary tumors are benign (noncancerous), but in rare cases some are malignant (cancerous) and capable of spreading to other parts of the brain.

Functioning vs. non-functioning pituitary tumors

Pituitary tumors can be classified as:

  • Functioning, or hormone-producing
  • Non-functioning, or non-hormone-producing

Because functional tumors release excess hormones into the body, they can cause a variety of side effects. For instance, tumors that produce excess prolactin can disrupt menstruation in women and reduce testosterone levels in men. Tumors that produce growth hormones can lead to enlarged hands and feet, while tumors that produce the ACTH hormone can cause weight gain and muscle weakness.

How are pituitary tumors treated?

Noncancerous functioning tumors are often treated with prescription medications. Counteracting the excess hormones may be all that is needed to improve a person’s quality of life.

Cancerous pituitary tumors, on the other hand, are usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Surgery – the most common type of pituitary tumor treatment – is sometimes performed through the nose, eliminating the need for a surgical incision. In other cases, surgery can be performed using minimally invasive techniques.

If surgery is not recommended, stereotactic radiosurgery, traditional radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used instead. Hormone therapy may also be prescribed if the pituitary gland is removed or if the gland no longer produces adequate levels of hormones following pituitary tumor treatment.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we provide a comprehensive range of pituitary tumor treatments in a single location. Patients can consult with our experienced surgeons, endocrinologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and supportive care providers with or without a physician’s referral.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and would like to learn more about your diagnosis or treatment options, call 1-888-663-3888 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment with an oncologist specializing in pituitary tumors.