Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary gland, no larger than a pea, is located at the bottom of your brain and above the inside of your nose. It is responsible for regulating most of your body's hormones--the chemical messengers that travel through your blood. The gland is attached to the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) by nerve fibers and blood vessels.

Pituitary tumors are common, but most are benign (noncancerous) and are almost never fatal. However, because the pituitary gland is located at the base of the skull, many pituitary tumors press against the optic nerves and thus cause vision problems. Also, the most common type of pituitary tumor cause excess hormones that disrupt the balance of hormones throughout the body.

Pituitary Tumors

Cause of Pituitary Tumors

The cause of pituitary tumors in not known.

Symptoms of Pituitary Tumors

Common symptoms of a pituitary tumor include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Persistent headaches
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Sudden loss of sight
  • Numbness or pain in the face
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Unwanted weight gain or loss
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Impotence
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Problems caused by the production of too many hormones

Each individual experiences symptoms differently, and symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your otolaryngologist for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Pituitary Tumors

If a pituitary tumor is suspected, the patient should have a complete medical evaluation including a complete personal and family medical history, a physical examination and vision testing. These exams will help your otolaryngologist to make a diagnosis.

Treatment of Pituitary Tumors

There are many effective treatments for pituitary tumors usually determined by whether the tumor is cancerous or benign—and most are benign. Treatment usually consists of surgery, radiation therapy or drug therapy to block the tumor’s ability to produce hormones. Your otolaryngologist will decide upon treatment based on whether the pituitary is functional (producing hormones) and what kind of hormones it is producing. Your age and general health will also contribute to the treatment decision.

Transnasal Endoscopic Pituitary Surgery

Transnasal endoscopic pituitary surgery, also called transsphenoidal endoscopic surgery, is the most common surgery used to remove pituitary tumors. Endoscopic pituitary surgery is done with an instrument called an endoscope, a thin, rigid tube that has a microscope, light and camera built into it, and it's usually inserted through the nose. The camera lets your surgeon watch on a television screen while inserting other special instruments through the scope to remove the tumor.

Learn more about pituitary tumor treatment.

Learn more about transnasal endoscopic pituitary surgery.

What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have a pituitary tumor and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced otolaryngologist are important to the successful outcome for patients with ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by otolaryngologist, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with pituitary tumors. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay, patient-centered care and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care by collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community, with its diverse specialists, and state-of-the-art facilities.

Pituitary and Neuroendocrine Center Video

The Pituitary and Neuroendocrine Center is a patient focused, multi-disciplinary program offering patients the most advanced care available, including both medical and surgical management of pituitary disorders.

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