Pituitary adenomas are tumors that form in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a small gland (about the size of a pea) that is located at the base of the brain.
The pituitary gland secretes hormones. Pituitary adenoma can often go undiagnosed. These tumors are classified based on plasma hormone levels. They secrete hormones at different levels and can secrete more than one hormone.
Signs & Symptoms
One of the symptoms of pituitary adenoma is hyperpituitarism, which means there is too much hormone secretion. Outward symptoms include defects with the visual field, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and confusion. Growth of the tumor can compress certain nerves and cause lateral rectus palsy. Increased pressure in the brain due to compression caused by the tumor can cause headaches. Pituitary adenoma may sometimes reveal themselves during pregnancy due to the elevated progesterone levels in a woman’s body during that time.
Physicians will look at the combination of symptoms mentioned above in order to begin diagnosis of a pituitary adenoma. In general if a tumor is causing visual difficulty it is larger than 10 mm, thus if there are visual problems doctors can surmise that the tumor is at least 10mm in diameter. The patient’s hormone levels are also tested and they are given CT scans and MRIs to examine the pituitary gland and confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for pituitary adenoma depends largely on the type and size of the tumor. For smaller tumors medications are given in an attempt to reduce the size of the growth while also decreasing the symptoms. Larger tumors are usually treated with a combination of radiation and surgery. Radiation has proven successful in eradicating the tumor with minimal damage to the surrounding area. Surgery is also a common treatment option. Recently endoscopic surgery has become the standard when possible.
Prognosis for pituitary adenoma depends on many factors. The size and type of tumor, whether or not it is producing hormones and if it is causing vision problems are all factors that physicians assess when diagnosing and treating pituitary adenoma. If the tumor has spread to other areas and if the diagnosis is new or a recurrence are also factors that are taken into consideration. With proper treatment tumors are unlikely to recur and prognosis is generally good.