Pituitary Tumors | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine

Pituitary Tumors

Leading-edge Diagnosis and Treatment of Pituitary Tumors

Loyola Medicine’s doctors are highly skilled in delivering the highest level of care for patients with pituitary tumors

About 10,000 patients each year are diagnosed with a pituitary tumor in the United States. A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth of the pituitary gland, which is part of the endocrine system. This pea-sized gland produces hormones and also regulates the production of hormones in other glands, including the thyroid, sex glands and adrenal glands. 

Most pituitary tumors are benign, or noncancerous; but they may be of concern because as they grow they start to put pressure on nearby structures in the brain, such as the optic nerve. If left untreated, these tumors can lead to blindness or upset the delicate balance of hormone levels.

Loyola takes a multidisciplinary approach to the care of pituitary tumors, which can threaten your vision and cause a multitude of symptoms. In addition to your primary care physician, your team may include a neurologist, neurosurgeon, radiologist, endocrinologist, oncologist, fertility specialist and our experienced nurses.

Why Choose Loyola for Treatment of Pituitary Tumors?

Loyola’s compassionate team understands that pituitary tumors can be life-changing not only for the patient, but also for family members. Loyola takes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and provides support services for patients and families. 

Loyola's neurology and neurosurgery departments are nationally recognized for providing exceptional care in an academic setting, training future leaders in neurology and neurosurgery. 

 Our neuro intensive care unit and Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center are staffed by compassionate certified technologists and highly experienced nurses, who have earned Magnet status.

Symptoms of Pituitary Tumors

When a pituitary tumor is smaller than one centimeter, it is called a microadenoma. It is called a macroadenoma when it measures one centimeter or more. Pressure from these tumors on nearby structures can cause of wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Body hair loss
  • Change in the amount and frequency of urination
  • Decrease in sexual libido, usually in men
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision, blurred vision or peripheral vision loss
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual changes in women
  • Nausea
  • Pain or numbness in the face
  • Sudden blindness
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Weakness​

You may also experience symptoms due to an increase or decrease in several pituitary-regulated hormones, including adrenocorticotropin, human growth hormone, prolactin and thyroxine. Symptoms depend on the hormone.

ACTH-secreting tumors

High levels of adrenocorticotropin hormone (AcTH) can lead to overproduction of steroids, which can result in Cushing’s syndrome. Symptoms include:

  • Acne breakouts
  • Bone weakening
  • Bruising
  • Dark stretch marks on abdomen
  • Depression
  • Facial redness or swelling
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Increase in fat around the neck
  • Increased hair growth on face, chest or abdomen
  • Loss of libido
  • Menstrual changes
  • Moodiness
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain

HGH-producing tumors

High levels of human growth hormone produce different symptoms in children and adults. With children, this hormone can affect their growth (gigantism), causing rapid growth, unusual tallness, joint pain and increased sweating. With adults, symptoms may include:

  • Thickening of the skin
  • Thickening of the tongue and roof of the mouth, which may result in snoring and sleep apnea
  • Unusual increase in size of skull, hands or feet
  • Voice deepening

Prolactin-secreting tumors

High prolactin levels affect men and women differently. Symptoms include:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Loss of libido
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Milky discharge from breasts

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)

These tumors are rare, but can lead to hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Extra sweating
  • Feeling warm all the time
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Greater appetite
  • Increased body hair growth
  • Insomnia
  • Lump in front of the neck
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Weight loss

How are Pituitary Tumors Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing pituitary tumor symptoms, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam and take a detailed medical and family history. In addition, your doctor may order the following:

  • Blood and urine tests to check your hormone levels
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Venous blood sampling, which uses catheters to record the hormone levels in blood vessels leading to and from the pituitary gland
  • X-rays

Most people who develop pituitary tumors don’t have a family history of the disease. Some pituitary tumors may be caused by a genetic link as with multiple endocrine neoplasia (types I and IV), McCune-Albright syndrome and Carney complex.


How are Pituitary Tumors Treated?

Most pituitary tumors are benign (noncancerous). Treatment options for a tumor depends on whether it is benign or malignant (cancerous), the size of the mass, how much pressure it is exerting on surrounding structures and whether it is causing the gland to produce too much or too little of a particular hormone. 

Our experts will work closely to design an individualized treatment plan for you. Treatment for pituitary tumors may include: 

  • Medication — Your doctor may prescribe medication to increase or decrease hormone production
  • Radiation therapy — This treatment is used to eliminate tumor cells. Your doctor may elect this approach if the entire tumor cannot be removed with surgery. Learn more about radiation therapy.
  • Surgery — Loyola’s neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists and cranial base tumor specialists will coordinate a medical plan of action to remove your pituitary tumor. With endoscopic cranial base surgery or endonasal endoscopy, your highly skilled surgeons will access and remove your tumor through your nasal passage. This leading-edge technology allows your surgeons access to the tumor without harming other important nearby structures, such as the brain, optic nerve or carotid arteries. This approach allows your surgeons a better view of the tumor, making it easier to remove all of it and reducing the chances of a recurrence. Use of a minimally invasive technique also reduces scarring, pain and the length of your hospital stay, which will allow you to return to your everyday activities sooner. Learn about Loyola’s Center for Cranial Base Surgery.
  • Combination of all three therapies — Depending on your type of tumor, you may receive all three of the above therapies