Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Pituitary Tumors

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As many as 1 in 4 people may have a pituitary tumor, but most are benign and don’t cause any symptoms. Should a tumor grow large enough or start to affect hormone production, a pituitary tumor becomes a little more obvious.

The American Cancer Society estimates that as many as 1 in 4 people may have pituitary tumors, but reports that only 10,000 are diagnosed each year in the United States. The reason behind this discrepancy in numbers is that most pItuitary tumors are benign and so small that they don’t cause any symptoms.

If a tumor does grow large enough or begins to affect the production of certain hormones, you can fall into the much smaller category of confirmed and diagnosed pituitary tumors.

To help you better understand the potential side effects of a pituitary tumor, board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Ali H. Mesiwala and our team outline a few of the more common signs here.

A wide range of functions

If you’re reading this as a way to potentially diagnose a pituitary tumor, we caution you that symptoms can vary greatly. 

Your pituitary gland is often referred to as the “master gland” in your body, as it not only produces certain key hormones, it also regulates the production of other hormones in their related glands. To give you an idea of the wide net that this gland in your brain casts, your pituitary gland influences your:

  • Growth hormones
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Cortisol (stress) hormones
  • Reproductive hormones
  • Follicle-stimulating hormones
  • Antidiuretic hormones (water-sodium balance in your body)

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of the wide range of areas that an issue in this pea-sized gland in your brain can affect.

A wide range of symptoms

Among the 10,000 pituitary adenomas (tumors) that are diagnosed each year, the symptoms are largely due to one of three issues:

  • The tumor grew into other areas of your brain
  • The tumor affected the function and hormone production of the pituitary gland
  • The tumor made its own hormones (a growth that is endocrine-active)

As you can imagine, symptoms can vary greatly from one person to another depending on size, location, and activity of the tumor.

Non-functioning tumor symptoms

If you have a non-functioning tumor that’s grown into the gland or into other areas of the brain, you might experience:

  • Headaches
  • Numbness in your face
  • Vision issues
  • Dizziness and fainting

If the tumor reduces the pituitary gland’s hormone production, but doesn’t produce its own, it can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of libido
  • Loss of body hair
  • Body temperature issues
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Breast tissue in men

A pituitary tumor that presses against the back of the gland can cause dehydration as your body secretes too much water.

When a tumor produces hormones

If the tumor on your pituitary gland starts to secrete its own hormones, the symptoms can range from extra bone growth in your face to diabetes and everything in between. Hormone-secreting tumors produce symptoms based on the hormone it’s producing, so it would be difficult to get into the many different possibilities.

Diagnosing and treating pituitary tumors

As you can imagine, getting the right diagnosis is important. If you’re experiencing symptoms that seem to come from nowhere and medical providers are having trouble identifying the issue, it might be time to seek the help of Dr. Mesiwala.

After a thorough review of your symptoms, we can run tests, including blood tests, to determine whether you have hormone balance issues. If we find an imbalance, we turn to advanced imaging to get a closer look at the small gland.

Based on what we find, we can suggest treatment options, which might include balancing your hormones through medications or surgery to remove a large tumor. Rest assured, you’re in good hands with Dr. Mesiwala, who is a leading neurosurgeon. In fact, due to the location of the pituitary gland behind a sinus cavity, he’s often able to go in through the nose to remove the growth, without touching other areas of the brain, and depending on the size we can also consider treatments like Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery. 

If you’d like more information on pituitary tumors, please contact one of our offices in Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, Rancho Cucamonga, or San Bernardino, California, to set up an appointment.