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Pituitary tumour: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About pituitary tumour

Pituitary tumour is a tumour of the pituitary gland, which is a small glandular organ located at the base of the brain. Pituitary gland is responsible for secreting various hormones namely the growth hormone, prolactin, ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone), TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone), FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), LH Luteinizing Hormone), ADH (Anti Diuretic Hormone) and oxytocin. Most pituitary tumours are benign and termed as ‘pituitary adenomas’ but a few may be cancerous.

Pituitary tumour: Incidence, age and sex

Pituitary tumour is seen commonly in young and middle-aged adults. Most such tumours are asymptomatic and thus may never get diagnosed, till it is very late. Pituitary tumour can either decrease or increase the secretion of the pituitary gland’s hormones.

Signs and symptoms of pituitary tumour: Diagnosis

The symptoms of a pituitary tumour depends upon increase or decrease in hormone production or compression of adjacent structures by the tumour growth. As the tumour grows, there may be an increase in intracranial pressure, resulting in vomiting and headache. It may also progress to visual disturbance. Other symptoms vary according to the disrupted production of various hormones of the pituitary gland. Disruption of the growth hormone production may result in Gigantism or Acromegaly, which is characterised by high blood pressure, enlargement of the hands and feet. Disruption of the TSH may result in abnormal metabolic activity in body. Disruption in ACTH may result in Cushing’s syndrome which is characterised by increased weight gain, increased hair and psychological problems. Similarly disruption of the prolactin hormone may result in several symptoms including impotence in men or abnormal menstrual cycle in women or infertility in both.

The diagnosis of a pituitary tumour is made by complete history and comprehensive physical examination by the physician. It is further established by diagnostic imaging such as a CT or an MRI scan. Assays of the hormones secreted by the pituitary glands may help in corroborating the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of pituitary tumour

The cause of a pituitary tumour is not known. However hereditary factors may play a role in causation. Multiple Endocrine Neoplasms (MEN), which is a familial condition, is known to exhibit pituitary tumour.

Pituitary tumour: Complications

Pituitary tumour may lead to many hormonal complications. Visual disturbances and headache may lead to disturbance in daily schedules and work.

Pituitary tumour: Treatment

The treatment of pituitary gland depends upon the type of tumour and its size. It may be treated with radiation, medications, surgery or hormonal block. In fact, surgery is the most common modality used for treating pituitary tumours. Medications like bromocriptine may be used to suppress lactation in prolactin secreting tumours of the pituitary gland. Radiotherapy, which kills the tumour cells by energy rays, may be used as an adjunct to surgical treatment. Regular check-up of affected individuals is needed to detect and manage any recurrence of tumour activity.