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Pituitary Tumors: What You Need to Know

What is a pituitary tumor?

A pituitary tumor is a growth in the pituitary gland that can cause problems with hormone production.

Pituitary tumors are usually noncancerous, but they can develop into cancer if left untreated.

Pituitary tumors can occur at any age and affect both men and women. They are usually benign (noncancerous) growths that grow slowly, but occasionally they can cause serious health problems.

The most common pituitary tumors are prolactin-producing adenomas, which produce too much prolactin. Prolactin-producing adenomas can also lead to visual field defects, headaches, and vision loss if left untreated.

Because these tumors can sometimes cause severe symptoms when they become large enough to press against other structures in the brain, it's important to have them checked out by your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches or vision loss

  • Unusual behavior or personality changes

  • Problems sleeping or feeling tired all the time

Pituitary tumors are rare.

They develop in the pituitary gland, a gland located at the base of the brain that controls hormone production. Pituitary tumors are benign (noncancerous) in about 80 percent of cases, but they can also be malignant (cancerous).

Pituitary tumors can cause symptoms such as:

Headaches, vision problems, and memory loss.

They can also lead to high blood pressure or diabetes. Some pituitary tumors cause no symptoms at all, but if you have a family history of pituitary tumors, you should be checked for them regularly.

Doctors diagnose pituitary tumors using imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs. Treatment depends on which part of your body is affected by the tumor and whether it's cancerous or not.

A pituitary tumor is a growth in your pituitary gland, the gland that produces hormones.

Many people have a pituitary tumor and don't know it, but when they become large enough to cause symptoms, it can be very serious.

How often do pituitary tumors develop?

Pituitary tumors are relatively common. Some estimates say that about one in every thousand people will develop a pituitary tumor at some point in their lives. However, not all pituitary tumors need treatment. And even if they do require treatment, the treatment may not be necessary right away.

What causes pituitary tumors?

The majority of pituitary tumors arise from a person's own cells -- that is, they are "functional" or "endocrine." These

Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Most are benign and can grow slowly over many years without causing problems for their owner; however, if a tumor becomes large enough to press on other parts of the brain or optic pathways, it may cause vision loss or headaches.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, it's okay to be scared. The good news, however, is that almost every case of tumors of this type can be treated successfully. Before undergoing treatment, though, it's important to consult a doctor who is well-versed in pituitary tumors so that he or she can first put the mind at ease and then work out a treatment plan to get the most out of your time (and money).

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