The most common type of pituitary tumor is a microadenoma (tumor) that is less than one centimeter in size. These tumors form on the pituitary gland and are not as dangerous as larger tumors. DNA mutations can cause pituitary microadenomas to form when cells within the pituitary gland grow and divide uncontrollably. Experts aren’t completely certain what causes these genetic mutations. There is a small hereditary factor in a few cases of pituitary tumors, but for the most part, this is not the case.As such, patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I (a hereditary condition commonly known as MEN I) are at increased risk for pituitary tumors and other cancers of the endocrine system.
Microadenomas of the pituitary gland cause the following symptoms
The vast majority of pituitary tumors are not cancerous and do not progress to cause symptoms. However, pituitary microadenomas are more likely to function, which means they can produce hormones.A pituitary microadenoma can result in a number of hormone imbalances, resulting in a diagnosis of the tumor. Here are some of these hormone imbalances and the symptoms they cause:
- High growth hormone levels – Usually causes swelling and joint pain, and may cause abnormal bone growth on the hands, feet, and face.
- ACTH (steroid hormone) levels at high levels – Weight gain, swelling, hair growth, vision changes, and low sex drive are symptoms of Cushing’s disease.
- Prolactin (luteotropic hormone) levels are high – Men may suffer erectile dysfunction and breast growth while women suffer osteoporosis, decreased sex drive, and infertility.
Microadenoma of the pituitary – treatment
Based on whether or not the tumor is functional, as well as the hormone it produces, the most appropriate treatment for pituitary microadenomas is determined.A pituitary microadenoma may be treated with any of the following options, depending on the individual’s circumstances:
- Surgical procedures
- Treatment with radiation