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Types of Pituitary Tumors

Our Approach

If you have been diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, it's important to be treated by doctors who specialize in these complex disorders. The specialists in the Pituitary Tumor Program at MD Anderson's Endocrine Center are among the nation's most experienced and skilled experts in diagnosing and treating pituitary cancer and benign (not cancer) pituitary tumors. They work as a team to customize your care, delivering the most advanced treatment with the least impact on your body.

Your personal medical team for pituitary tumor care may include endocrinologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, pathologists, neuro-ophthamologists and/or radiation oncologists, as well as a specially trained support staff. They communicate and collaborate closely with each other – and with you – to coordinate your treatment.

Comprehensive, Expert Care

Because the pituitary gland is delicate and can be damaged during surgery, it is vital that your surgery be done by a specialized neurosurgeon with a high degree of experience. MD Anderson's surgeons complete many pituitary tumor surgeries each year, and this increases your chance for a successful outcome.

As one of the country's foremost cancer centers, we are constantly researching new advances, and we take part in many multi-center clinical trials. This means we offer clinical trials for new treatments of pituitary tumors, which may be difficult to find elsewhere.

And at MD Anderson you're surrounded by the strength of one of the nation's largest and most renowned comprehensive cancer centers, which has all the support and wellness services needed to treat the whole person – not just the disease.

If you have been diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, we're here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Treatment for pituitary cancer and benign pituitary tumors
  • High level of experience with complex pituitary tumors
  • Team approach includes highly experienced specialists
  • Most advanced diagnosis and treatment methods
  • Clinical trials of new treatments for pituitary tumors

Why Choose MD Anderson?

Treatment at MD Anderson

Pituitary tumors are treated in our:

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Pituitary Tumor Facts

Pituitary tumors may occur in up to 15% to 20% of people, but tumors requiring treatment occur less frequently and often are not diagnosed.

The pituitary gland, which is about the size of a pea, is at the base of the brain. Although it is small, the gland is important and is known as the "master gland." It makes growth hormone (GH), which plays a part in growth in children and metabolism in adults, and prolactin, a hormone important for breast milk production. The pituitary also makes hormones that control the function of other glands, including the thyroid, adrenals and gonads (ovaries in women and testes in men).

Pituitary tumors start in the pituitary gland, and they also are called pituitary adenomas. They almost always are benign (not cancer). However, they can cause serious problems due to overproduction or underproduction of hormones or if they grow large enough to press against areas around the pituitary, such as the optic nerves, which help you see.

Pituitary Tumor Types

There are two main types of pituitary tumors.

Functioning Tumors: These pituitary tumors cause the body to make too much of certain hormones. Hormones that may be overproduced by such pituitary tumors include:

Prolactin: Prolactin stimulates breast growth and milk production in women. A pituitary tumor that makes too much of this hormone is called a prolactinoma. This is the most frequent type of pituitary tumor.

Growth hormone (GH): GH plays a part in height in children and the body's metabolism. Tumors that make too much GH cause acromegaly (gradual enlargement of body parts) in adults and gigantism (abnormally large growth) in children.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH): This hormone tells the adrenal glands to make cortisol, which plays a role in the body's response to stress. It also helps regulate blood pressure and heart function, among other duties. Too much ACTH leads to Cushing's disease.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): Pituitary tumors that make too much of this hormone cause the thyroid to release large amounts of thyroxine, causing hyperthyroidism (link to more information) (overactive thyroid). This is the most rare type of pituitary tumor.

Non-functioning Tumors: This type of pituitary tumor does not make hormones that cause symptoms and is the second most frequent type of pituitary tumor. They may cause problems if they grow large and press against other areas, such as the optic nerve or other nerves. Non-functioning pituitary tumors also can interfere with the pituitary gland's normal production of hormones.

Pituitary cancer (carcinoma): In rare cases, the cells in a pituitary tumor can become cancer and metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body. In most cases, pituitary cancers make hormones, usually prolactin and ACTH.

If you have been diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, we're here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

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