Although small, the pituitary gland is a very important gland that can be found near the brain. It is called the master endocrine gland primarily due to its secretion of various types of hormones that affect many functions of the body. A pituitary gland tumor can develop when normal cells start to grow and change uncontrollably. The tumor can either be noncancerous (benign and remains in the pituitary gland) or cancerous (malignant and may spread to other body parts).
In most cases, a pituitary gland tumor is only benign which can be classified as a pituitary adenoma. However, it can sometimes manifest traits of a cancerous tumor by affecting adjacent structures and tissues, or in very rare cases, invading other body parts. And contrary to what some people may think, they are not brain tumors simply because the pituitary gland is separate from the brain as it is situated under it.
Be that as it may, a tumor on pituitary gland can sometimes be serious. If the gland does not function properly, it can cause problems in other systems or organs of the body. The abnormal growth can also put pressure on structures located nearby like the optic nerves. This intrusion will impair an individual’s vision.
Based on statistics, around 7000 cases of tumors on pituitary gland are diagnosed every year in the United States alone. Because the gland is very proximate to the human brain, data collectors sometimes mistakenly classify this tumor type as a brain tumor. The tumor growth is more commonly seen in adults and is generally of the benign type.
There are three hereditary syndromes that are known as the major risk factors for the growth of the tumor. Genetic testing is used to determine the risk for all the conditions.
- Type 1 Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN1) – This type of hereditary factor increases the risk of developing pituitary tumors in member of the family who are affected.
- Carney Complex – This is a particular genetic condition that can enhance an individual’s risk of developing pituitary gland tumor although it does not always result to it.
- Familial Acromegaly – This is a condition common in adults that results from excessive growth hormones. It can either happen as part of the development of MEN or isolated within a family.
People who have the tumor may manifest various symptoms such as headaches, impotence in men due to hormonal changes, infertility, inappropriate breast milk production, changes in menstrual cycle, vision problems, irritability, unexplained tiredness, Cushing’s syndrome (which comes as a combination of diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and easy bruising) due to the excessive production of ACTH, and Acromegaly (enlargement of limbs or extremities and thickening of the jaw and skull) because of excessive growth hormones.
Pituitary gland tumor patients may sometimes experience none of the above symptoms at all. There are also cases when the symptoms are caused by other medical conditions totally not related to the tumor in the pituitary gland. If you are alerted by any of the symptoms, medical attention must immediately be sought.
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