No one wants to learn they have a tumor. But, when it comes to your pituitary gland, 99% of these growths are benign, or noncancerous. And pituitary tumors usually don’t spread or grow extensively. Still, they can negatively impact your health.
At Cerebrum MD, in Tyson’s Corner, Vienna, Virginia, Joseph Watson, MD, specializes in treating pituitary tumors and has published numerous works on pituitary conditions and surgery. Dr. Watson has these insights to offer on pituitary tumors, and when they may require treatment.
Understanding pituitary tumors
Developing tumors or adenomas (small tumors) in pituitary tissue is fairly common.
Your pituitary gland plays a vital role in your endocrine system by producing numerous hormones and secreting them into your bloodstream. It lies near the underside of your brain behind your nose, attached to your hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that helps control bodily functions, including:
- Releasing hormones through the pituitary gland
- Controlling appetite
- Regulating emotions
- Managing sexual behavior
- Maintaining body temperature
As a result, pituitary tumors can interfere with the hormonal balance in your body, which can trigger a variety of symptoms.
Types of pituitary tumors
Not all pituitary tumors cause symptoms. But, when they do occur, they develop because of the type and size of the tumor.
These pituitary tumors are common. If they grow large, they can impact normal pituitary cells and cause a decrease in hormone production.
Functional pituitary tumors
These types of tumors involve abnormal growths in hormone-producing cells, leading to an overproduction of hormones. Functional pituitary tumors are often small and detected early because of the symptoms they trigger.
Large pituitary tumors
When nonfunctional or functional pituitary tumors reach one centimeter in size or larger, they can also trigger headaches and vision problems, because they usually put pressure on nearby structures.
Signs of a pituitary tumor
The signs of a pituitary tumor can vary depending on whether you have hormonal changes or pressure from a large tumor. As a result, you might experience:
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Fatigue, muscle weakness, or aching joints
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Low blood pressure or low blood sugar
- Sexual dysfunction or infertility
- Depression or irritability
- Changes in vision
Not all pituitary tumors require treatment. However, depending on the type, size, and location of your growth, it could put you at risk of permanent hormone deficiency or vision loss from the pressure on your optic nerve. In very rare cases, a pituitary tumor can also begin bleeding and require immediate treatment.
Treating pituitary tumors
Dr. Watson can usually treat pituitary tumors with medication, radiation, or surgery. If you need surgery, Dr. Watson typically performs a specialized technique called subcapsular microdissection. This surgical procedure enables him to remove abnormal growths within your pituitary gland while leaving healthy tissue untouched.
To learn more about pituitary tumors and your treatment options, book an appointment over the phone with Cerebrum MD today.