Pituitary Adenoma

(Pituitary Tumor; Nervous System Tumor)


The pituitary is a small complicated gland at the base of the brain. It makes several important hormones that regulate growth and the activity of several other major glands throughout the body. A pituitary adenoma is an abnormal growth, or tumor, in this gland. Pituitary adenomas are usually benign. This means they are not cancerous. They do not spread to other parts of the body. They can lead to vision problems because they are near the eyes. A pituitary adenoma can also lead to growth problems. It often can also disrupt the hormonal balance of the thyroid, adrenal, and gonad glands.
Pituitary Gland
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The cause is unknown. Some tumors are part of other endocrine disorders and are associated with genetic changes. These can be inherited.Tumors can also be a result of exposure to cancer-causing substances or radiation. In some cases, the DNA changes may occur for no known reason.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of pituitary adenoma include:
  • A family or personal history of multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN1)—a hereditary condition that increases the risk of developing pituitary, hypothalamus, and parathyroid and pancreatic tumors
  • Other inherited disorders such as Carney complex, acromegaly, or gigantism


Symptoms can vary and may not be present at all. It will depend on whether the tumor is secreting hormones and how large it is. The tumor's location at the base of the brain can also cause symptoms.General symptoms due to size may include:
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision or tunnel vision
In addition to the above, symptoms from prolactin-secreting adenoma:
  • Milk production in nonlactating women
  • Loss of or irregular periods
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Vaginal dryness
Symptoms from thyrotropin-secreting adenoma:
  • Swelling of the neck
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
Symptoms from corticotropin-secreting adenoma:
  • Menstrual disturbance
  • Skin changes—increased facial hair, acne, bruising, or bluish stretch marks
  • Buffalo hump—increased fatty tissue in back
  • Obesity, especially around the wrist
  • Round face
Growth hormone-secreting adenoma:
  • Enlarged hands and feet
  • Excessive growth and height
  • Oily skin
  • Excess sweating
Pituitary adenomas may also be associated with the following conditions:

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