Understanding Medical Problems

Could Your Mysterious Symptoms Be Caused By A Pituitary Tumor?

The proliferation of name-your-symptom medical websites sometimes give rise to the joke, "everything's a brain tumor!" because of the serious-sounding conditions that may pop up after entering seemingly innocuous symptoms. However, as many as 25 percent of Americans are estimated to have a pituitary adenoma (a benign tumor) and don't even know it. In some cases, these tumors can morph into pituitary carcinomas, which pose some serious health risks. Read on to learn more about some of the common signs of this condition and what can be done to treat it. 

Signs and Symptoms of Pituitary Adenoma

A pituitary adenoma may seem intimidating because of its location (in the base of the brain), but this condition is similar to thyroid nodules and other harmless growths that can crop up on hormone-secreting glands. In some cases, the growth will begin acting as its own tiny pituitary gland, secreting hormones and interfering with the function of the gland. In other situations, it may be entirely symptom-free until or unless it grows large enough to begin pressing on the optic nerve or other parts of the brain.

Generally, unless you're experiencing symptoms that interfere with your daily life or are noticeable enough to cause alarm, there's no need to pursue treatment. But if you have more than a few of the following symptoms, you may want to have a blood test to confirm that a pituitary adenoma is behind these developments: 

By testing your blood hormone levels, your doctor will be better able to narrow down your symptoms and provide you with a diagnosis. A CT scan or MRI may be used to confirm the presence, location, and size of an adenoma.  

When an Adenoma Turns Cancerous

In some very rare cases, this pituitary tumor may morph into a carcinoma or a type of cancer. If this happens, it's important to seek treatment as quickly as possible; left untreated, this aggressive cancer could spread to your lymph nodes and be incredibly difficult to eradicate.

Treatment Options

In many cases, a pituitary adenoma that is secreting hormones on its own can be surgically removed (through your sinus cavity) or treated with hormone-blocking medication. Larger pituitary adenomas may also be surgically removed or can sometimes be shrunk through radiation therapy.

For pituitary carcinomas, a course of radiation and chemotherapy (along with surgery to remove the tumor, if possible) is usually your best bet. This treatment should kill or shrink cancer cells until you enter remission; after five years of clean scans, you'll be considered officially cancer-free.

To learn more, contact a brain specialist.