Pituitary Tumor Risks & Side Effects

Pituitary tumors can vary widely in their cause, the symptoms they produce and how they need to be treated. It is important to work with an experienced doctor in the NJ area who can help manage your condition.

Understanding Your Condition

Taking the time to educate yourself about your condition is an excellent way to set your mind at ease during this process. The following information will help you better understand your pituitary tumor and the risks it poses to your overall health. Because these tumors can be variable in nature, it is important you work with a doctor in northern NJ who has experience diagnosing and treating pituitary tumors.

About Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary gland is a small structure located deep within the brain, near the area at the back of your nose. It is made up of many different cells, each of which secretes a hormone that has effects elsewhere in the body. A pituitary tumor can be an overgrowth of any of these types of cells.

There are two types of pituitary tumors: non-secreting and secreting. Non-secreting tumors are more common; they do not secrete excess hormones and symptoms result as they grow in size. These tumors are typically small, found incidentally, and asymptomatic. However, they can cause symptoms in patients if the tumor is large enough to press on an adjacent structure. The second type is a secreting pituitary adenoma. In this case, symptoms arise from the secretion of excess hormones.

Pituitary Tumor Risks & Side Effects

Your individual pituitary tumor risks and side effects will depend on many factors, such as whether or not your tumor secretes an excess hormone, which type of hormone is being secreted and the size and location of your tumor, as well as any other health conditions you may have. While your personal doctor will be able to discuss pituitary tumor risks and side effects based on your specific circumstances, having a basic understanding can help you play a more active role in that conversation.

Generally speaking, pituitary tumor risks include:

  • Future growth of the tumor
  • Secretion of excess hormones, with potential physiologic effects
  • Impingement and damage to adjacent structures

The above pituitary tumor risks are what lead to the actual side effects. Again, these will depend on the size and location of your pituitary tumor and whether it is secreting hormone. Pituitary tumor side effects related to the tumor physically pressing on adjacent structures include:

  • Changes in vision
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Altered sense of smell

Other side effects can occur as a result of excess hormone. Each type of cell in the pituitary gland secretes a specific hormone, so these side effects depend on the characteristics of your individual pituitary tumor. Pituitary tumor side effects can include:

  • Excess cortisone, which can cause acne, “moon” face, upper body obesity, excess hair growth in women and bone pain
  • Excess growth hormone, which can cause excessive growth of the hands, feet and face, as well as headaches and joint pain
  • Effects on the thyroid gland, causing headaches, flushing, heat intolerance, fatigue and weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Sexual side effects and nipple discharge

Treating Pituitary Tumors

Not all pituitary tumors will require treatment. However, because they have the potential to grow and can be variable in nature, it is important to seek out a specialist in the tri-state area who can develop an appropriate treatment plan based on your individual condition. Your personal treatment plan may include one of the treatments below or even a combination approach.

Careful Monitoring – If your pituitary tumor is very small and asymptomatic, your doctor may not recommend treatment right away. Some patients will never require treatment at all. However, it will be important to attend all scheduled follow-up visits with your doctor so any changes in your pituitary tumor can be detected as soon as possible.

Medications – Your doctor may prescribe medications to help with symptoms related to excess hormones. Some patients may be able to manage symptoms this way without the need for further treatment. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to increase your comfort until your treatment date.

Surgery – If your pituitary tumor is very large and/or easily accessible, your doctor might recommend surgical removal of all or part of the tumor. Surgery can be used alone or followed up with Gamma Knife radiosurgery, detailed below.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery – Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy that can be used to target your pituitary tumor without damaging adjacent structures. This can be an excellent treatment option for patients who are not good surgical candidates or who prefer a minimally invasive approach.

Entrust Your Health to a Specialist

As you can now appreciate, pituitary tumors can be highly variable and should be managed by someone experienced with your condition. Take the time to find a doctor in the NJ area with knowledge and experience in diagnosing and treating pituitary tumors. Learning you have a brain tumor can be stressful, and knowing your health is in the hands of a specialist can help you rest easy throughout the process.

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Our Patient Liaison is here to help you understand your next step. After discussing your specific case, she can help you navigate your medical records, answer insurance questions, and connect you with one of our nurses, at no charge to you.

We now offer the convenience of virtual consultations via computer and smartphone. To discuss your specific case with our Nurse Navigator, call 201-571-6494.