Pituitary tumors can be difficult to diagnose. The neuroradiologists and neuropathologists at Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida use innovative diagnostic methods to locate pituitary tumors and determine the exact type so your care team can give you the most appropriate treatment for your specific condition.
Our specialists are highly skilled in their fields. Combined with the benefits of advanced medicine, they work together with many other health professionals to deliver comprehensive, personalized care.
What are pituitary tumors?
Pituitary tumors are a type of primary brain tumor. They begin in the epithelial cells that line the pituitary gland – the main endocrine gland that is attached to the hypothalamus and controls growth and metabolism and stimulates hormone production by other glands.
Though most pituitary tumors are benign (noncancerous), they have the potential to recur after treatment or, in rare cases, become malignant (cancerous).
What are the types of pituitary tumors?
Pituitary tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign pituitary tumors are called pituitary adenomas. Malignant pituitary tumors are called pituitary carcinomas – or pituitary cancers.
Almost all pituitary tumors are pituitary adenomas. Only rarely do they become cancerous.
Pituitary adenomas are classified by size and whether they are functioning (secrete hormones) or non-functioning (do not secrete hormones). Most pituitary adenomas are functioning.
The types of functioning pituitary adenomas are:
- Prolactin-secreting adenomas. These are the most common type of pituitary tumor. Excess prolactin can lead to menstruation or fertility problems in women and impotence in men. Women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding could also produce breast milk.
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone-secreting (ACTH-secreting) adenomas. These tumors make ACTH, which causes an overproduction of cortisol and leads to Cushing’s disease.
- Growth hormone-secreting adenomas. These tumors produce growth hormone, which leads to joint pain and enlarged facial features, hands and feet.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone-secreting (TSH-secreting) adenomas. The production of too much TSH causes hypothyroidism.
- Gonadotropin-secreting adenomas. These tumors secrete follicle-stimulating hormone and/or luteinizing hormone, leading to menstrual problems in women and low testosterone levels in men. They are very rare.
What are the risk factors for pituitary tumors?
Your risk for a pituitary tumor is increased if you have been diagnosed with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 or type 4, McCune Albright syndrome, or Carney complex.