The pituitary is a gland located at the base of the skull and produces hormones that control much of the body’s functions. Tumours called pituitary adenomas can form in them, causing various health problems.
What is a pituitary adenoma?
Pituitary adenomas, also called pituitary adenomas, are relatively common, affecting between 1 and 8 people per 100,000 population. In addition, they constitute 10% to 15% of all intracranial tumours 1. Most of these tumours are benign, slow-growing, and affect men and women equally between 30 and 40 years of age.
The exact cause of these tumours is not yet known, although it is suspected that it may be related to some genes involved in the development and growth of adenomas. Some complex hereditary diseases produce it, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, Carney syndrome, and McCune-Albright syndrome, among others.
What are the types of pituitary adenomas?
Pituitary adenomas are classified into two types of pituitary adenomas :
They are those that excessively secrete a specific type of hormone into the blood.
They do not produce any hormonal problems. When the tumour is vast, it begins to exert pressure inside the skull and causes various health problems.
What are the signs and symptoms of pituitary adenoma?
The type of adenoma that presents the most signs and symptoms is the functioning adenoma since it produces different hormones in large quantities. The appearance of symptoms will depend on the hormone that your adenoma produces. Among the most common are:
In women, it produces irregularities in menstruation, while in men, it decreases libido and fertility. In some cases, it also generates abnormal milk production in both men and women.
Due to the uncontrolled production of the so-called stress hormone (cortisol), you can develop Cushing’s disease. This condition produces obesity above the waist, skin infections, and slow growth in children, among other signs.
Excess production of this hormone causes acromegaly in adults (enlargement of the bones, face, hands, and even feet) and gigantism in children (excessive bone growth and abnormal height gain).
In the case of non-functioning adenomas, symptoms will not appear until the tumour grows large enough to compress the pituitary gland and cause hormonal problems. Other signs are loss of vision, frequent headaches or bleeding.
How to diagnose pituitary adenoma?
Your doctor will likely find a pituitary adenoma by chance while doing an MRI on your brain for another reason. This test allows you to identify the size and location of your tumour, in addition to evaluating the state of the surrounding tissue.
After an MRI, the next step is to perform a hormone test to identify which type of hormone is being oversecreted and any imbalances that may lead to other health problems.
Your doctor may also recommend an eye exam to rule out any vision problems and recommend treatment for your pituitary adenoma.
How to treat pituitary adenoma?
Once your adenoma has been evaluated, your doctor may recommend one of the following treatment options. The factors considered before choosing a treatment are usually age and health status, how invasive the tumour is, its size and excessive production of hormones, as the case may be.
This treatment is recommended to control excessive hormone production and is prescribed by a specialist doctor (endocrinologist). In some cases, the adenoma can be controlled with medication alone, while in others, they are usually an adjunct to surgery or radiosurgery.
It is the most widely used treatment today. In 96% of cases, it is done through the nose in a procedure called transnasal transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumour. The other 4% of patients require surgery to open the skull, which is not invasive.
This type of treatment uses high doses of radiation to kill tumour cells and thus prevent them from growing until it disappears completely. Gamma Knife radiosurgery, in addition to having a high success rate, does not cause side effects and does not damage healthy tissue.
Pituitary adenomas, once treated, do not generate significant complications, and the patient’s quality of life considerably improves in a short time. It is essential to comply with your annual medical check-ups and thus prevent the advancement of any disease.