Pituitary Tumors Frequently Asked Questions
What is a pituitary tumor?
Can you see or feel a pituitary tumor?
What are possible pituitary tumor symptoms?
- For prolactinoma pituitary tumors:
For acromegaly (growth hormone secreting adenoma):
- Amenorrhea (absence of menses or menstrual periods)
- Oligomenorrhea (irregular/sparse menstruation)
- Decreased libido (interest in sex)
- Galactorrhea (breast milk production/leakage/nipple discharge)
- Vaginal dryness (painful intercourse)
- Visual loss
- Sleep apnea
- Hand, foot, face or tongue growth or enlargement, swelling (soft tissue enlargement)
- Coarsening of facial features
- Change in ring or shoe size
- Spreading teeth, bite difficulties (overbite/underbite)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Joint and bone aches, pains and tenderness (including foot and tooth pain)
- Excessive sweating
- Oily skin
- For Cushing's disease (ACTH secreting adenoma):
- Fat build-up in the face (round or moon face), back (characteristically the upper back causing a so-called buffalo hump) and chest, while the arms and legs become relatively thin
- Hyperglycemia/diabetes (too much sugar in the blood)
- Weak and fragile muscles and bones
- Flushed (red) face
- Thin skin
- Increased bruising or bruisability
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Weight gain
- Skin striae (stretch marks)
- Mood swings
- Excess hair growth
- Osteoporosis rib and vertebral compression fractures
- For all pituitary tumors and craniopharyngiomas:
- Decreased libido (interest/desire in sex)
- Menstrual disorders
- Cold intolerance
- Excessive perspiration (sweating)
- Decreased appetite
- Vision impairment, blurriness, blindness (particularly poor peripheral vision)
- Excessive thirst and frequent urination
- Growth failure
- Delayed or premature puberty
- Dry skin
- Low or high blood pressure
- Frequent urination (diabetes insipidus)
How is a pituitary tumor treated?
There are a variety of options for treatment of a pituitary tumor. UW Health provides the following options:
- Trans-sphenoidal craniotomy for pituitary tumors: This minimally-invasive surgical approach is done with a microscope through the nose. Patients are cared for by a multidisciplinary team that includes neurosurgeons, endocrinologists, neuro-ophthalmologists and radiation oncologists.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: Stereotactic radiosurgery delivers high-dose radiation to a small area in the brain, usually in one treatment. The radiation can be given to the abnormal area while the surrounding normal brain tissue receives only a small dose of radiation. This procedure is also referred to as Gamma Knife or Linac Scalpel, depending on the device used.
- Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy: Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy (FSRT) allows for very precise delivery of radiation to the brain and has a greater ability to shape the radiation beams. The radiation is given over several treatments since the treatment is split into a number of smaller doses (fractions) of radiation. Fractionation is used to improve the radiation effect on the tumor while reducing the effect of radiation on the normal brain tissue.
- Medical treatment: Prolactin secreting tumors generally respond well to medication. Some of the other tumors may also respond to medical treatment.