Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Pituitary Tumors

 

The pituitary is a small, acorn-sized gland at the base of the brain that produces important hormones. It is sometimes called the “master gland” because the hormones it releases control essential body functions like growth, metabolism, and reproduction.

Pituitary tumors can grow inside or on the surface of your pituitary gland. Because the pituitary gland is located just below the optic (vision) nerves, pituitary tumors can cause vision problems, including partial loss of vision and even blindness.

Most pituitary tumors are benign (noncancerous) growths called pituitary adenomas. Other types of pituitary tumors include pituitary carcinomas, Rathke’s cleft cysts and craniopharyngiomas.

To schedule an appointment, call 713.441.8500 or request an appointment online.

Click on our infographic to download and learn more about causes, detection and treatment of pituitary tumors »  

Hormones Produced by the Pituitary

The pituitary gland produces several hormones that govern key body functions.

Anterior Pituitary Hormones

Function

Growth Hormones (GH)

The main hormone for general body growth

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH)

Causes adrenal glands to release several hormones; the major one is cortisol, a steroid necessary for body function.

Prolactin (PRL)

Causes breast enlargement and breast milk. Too much causes infertility in women and impotence in men.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Causes the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones (T3 and T4)

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

Stimulates ovulation in women and sperm production in men

Luteinizing Hormones (LH)

Stimulates ovulation in women and testosterone production in men



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Pituitary Tumors Overview, Pituitary Tumors Treatment or Pituitary Tumors Surgery.

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Pituitary Carcinomas

Pituitary carcinomas are very rare, cancerous tumors that make up just 0.2% of all pituitary adenomas. They’re equally common in women and men, most often occurring in middle age. Symptoms often mimic those of pituitary adenomas, because most pituitary carcinomas also secrete hormones. Because they are so rare, and share symptoms of pituitary adenomas, pituitary carcinomas are sometimes discovered after they have spread to other parts of the body. They can be hard to treat, and require aggressive treatment may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

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Rathke's Cleft Cysts

Rathke’s cleft cysts for a result of error during fetal development. The pituitary gland forms as a result of down growth of the brain into the posterior lobe, and the upward growth of cells that become the secreting part of the gland, called the anterior lobe. There is normally a little pouch or cavity between the two, which seals by birth, and the two parts of the gland become one. When this does not occur, the pouch contains cells that secrete a mucinous substance that causes progressive enlargement. It is therefore important to carefully follow these cysts with frequent MRII brain scans, to ensure that the cyst is not growing.

To schedule an appointment, call 713.441.8500 or request an appointment online.

 

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Craniopharyngiomas

Craniopharyngiomas are tumor that occur near the pituitary stalk. They form as result of deficiencies in normal endocrine development. They are usually benign (noncancerous). Craniopharyngiomas are usually diagnosed when they grow large enough to exert pressure on the brain, optic nerve or pituitary gland, and cause symptoms such as:

  • Obesity
  • Delayed growth in children
  • Vision problem or swollen optic nerve
  • Excessive thirst and urination

Adamantinomatous (ordinary) craniopharyngiomas are less solid tumors that tend to affect children under age 14. They account for 5% to 10% of all childhood brain tumors.

Papillary craniopharyngiomas are more solid tumors that are typically found in adults over age 45. Craniopharyngiomas are more common in African-Americans.

Surgery is usually the first line of treatment, followed by radiation (in adults and children over age three).

Learn more about Our Pituitary Tumor Treatment Options.

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