Pituitary Gland Tumor

What is pituitary gland tumor?

Anatomically, the pituitary gland, often called the master endocrine gland, is a small gland found in the brain area which regulates hormonal balance. It works by releasing the hormones that affect most of the functions of the body.

It is controlled mainly by the hypothalamus, a small structure in the brain that is functionally connected to the pituitary gland.

pituitary gland tumor picture

pituitary gland location

In addition, the pituitary gland is known to have two lobes, the posterior (back portion) and the front (anterior portion). Each lobe is responsible for releasing a specific kind of hormone.

The posterior pituitary lobe is known to release two specific hormones, namely antidiuretic hormone and oxytocin, while the anterior pituitary lobe is known to release many hormones like adrenocorticotrophic hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, melanocyte stimulating hormone, lipotropin, prolactin, growth hormone, and gonadotropins.

The pituitary gland tumor involves the presence of an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland.

Pituitary gland tumor symptoms

People who are diagnosed with pituitary gland tumors will show the following symptoms and signs:

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Loss of body hair
  • Dysfunction of the sexual organ
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Nipple discharge
  • Acromegaly
  • Gigantism
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lethargy
  • Nasal drainage
  • Double vision
  • Pain in the joint area
  • Tunnel vision
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Loss of sexual desire or drive

Pituitary gland tumor causes

A vast majority of people who have pituitary gland tumors have noncancerous or benign tumors; they do not experience or show symptoms associated with this disease condition and consequently the condition is often undetected and undiagnosed.

However, up to this point, the cause of pituitary gland tumors still remains unknown. One risk factor that has been pinpointed by experts is the genetic or hereditary factor.

Pituitary gland tumor diagnosis

In cases of patients with pituitary gland tumors, the following tests are conducted:

  • Medical history test
  • Serum prolactin level test
  • Urine cortisol test
  • Estradiol or testosterone level test
  • TSH test
  • MRI of the head
  • Free T4 test
  • Luteinizing hormone level test
  • Follicule stimulating hormone test
  • Insulin growth factor 1 test
  • Visual field test
  • Genetic testing
  • Blood tests

Pituitary gland tumor treatment

The type of treatment depends on the type of the pituitary gland tumor, its size, and its metastasis. There are three common therapies used to treat pituitary gland tumors which are as follows:

  • Radiation therapy

This therapy makes use of the high-energy x-rays to destroy the tumors. It is usually done alone or after the surgical procedure. This is a good treatment option, especially if the tumor recurs even after the surgical procedure. The methods of radiation therapy include stereotactic radiosurgery and external beam radiation.

The external beam radiation deals with the delivery of radiation in increments that are small enough in a given periodical time frame, while the stereotactic radiosurgery focuses on x-ray beams without the presence of an incision.

  • Surgical therapy

This therapy deals with the removal of the tumor found in the pituitary gland. This is a good option, especially if the tumor itself has been pressing on the optic nerves.

Two commonly used surgical procedures are the transcranial approach, which deals with the removal of the tumor via the incision of the scalp and the endoscopic transnasal transsphenoidal approach, which deals with the removal of the tumor via the sinus and nose without the presence of an external incision.

  • Pharmacological therapy

The medication is aimed at blocking the excessive secretion of the hormones and shrinking the tumor itself. Examples of pharmacological therapy drugs include cabergoline, bromocriptine, somatostatin analogs, and pegvisomant.

Surgery Side Effects

As mentioned above, surgery may be one of the common strategies used to treat pituitary gland tumors. Not all surgical procedures which involve an incision made in a particular area of the body are deemed successful for there are potential surgical side effects or postoperative complications. The following are some of the common side effects:

Surgery is performed on a specific part of the body in order to correct abnormalities. Postoperatively, bleeding, which is a common side effect, may occur. However, it may lead to excessive bleeding episodes which, in turn, may lead to pressure on the optical nerve, vision loss, and damage of the visual senses. Severe bleeding and major blood loss may arise from abnormally low blood pressure.

  • Damage to the carotid artery

This is a rare side effect but it can happen. There is a possibility that the carotid artery may be damaged during surgical manipulation which may lead to death or stroke. However, the possibility of this occurrence is one in a thousand patient cases.

  • Spinal fluid Leak

This is a potentially deadly and rare side effect. In addition, it can also lead to the presence of meningitis or infection stemming from the surgical procedure. Usually, the spinal fluid leak may be observed or felt as a form of discharge via the ear or nose.

  • Damage to the pituitary gland

This is the common side effect of surgery. Since the aim of the surgery is to remove the tumor in or around the pituitary gland, there may be possible injury or damage to it if the surgery is done improperly.

When this happens, the patient will experience an erratic hormone level deficiency or fluctuation which can be corrected by the prescription of hormone replacement medication in order to normalize his or her hormones.

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One comment on “Pituitary Gland Tumor
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