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Pituitary Tumor Treatment Introduction

Doctor speaking to a woman in an office setting

Researchers are always finding new treatments for pituitary tumors and improving current treatments. Pituitary tumors are almost never fatal.

Factors that influence treatment options

The treatment choices for each person depend on whether the tumor is cancerous or benign. Almost all pituitary tumors are benign adenomas. The doctor will then consider if it is a microadenoma or a macroadenoma, whether it is functional (produces hormones), and what kinds of hormones it produces to help decide treatment. A doctor also considers the person's age and general health when making recommendations about treatment.

Many people want to learn all they can about their disease and their treatment choices so that they can take an active part in decisions about their care. They are likely to have many questions and concerns about their treatment options.

The doctor is the best person to answer questions about treatment, such as what the treatment choices are, how well it might work, and what the risks and side effects may be. Most patients also want to know how they will have to change their normal activities.

Pituitary tumor staging

For most types of cancer, the stage tells how much and how far the disease has spread. This information can help guide doctors and patients in making treatment decisions. Pituitary tumors have no standard system of staging because they are almost always noncancerous. Cancer of the pituitary gland is too rare for a staging system to be developed.

Types of treatment

In most cases, pituitary tumors are treated by surgery, radiation therapy, or by using drugs that block the tumor's ability to produce hormones.

Goals of treatment

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor from the pituitary gland. This is possible with most microadenomas, but may be less likely with macroadenomas. Sometimes the entire pituitary gland will have to be removed. Medications can then do the work that the pituitary gland used to do.

  • Radiation. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill the tumor using X-rays. This treatment is often used when a pituitary tumor cannot entirely be removed in surgery or when it comes back after surgery.

  • Medications to block hormone overproduction. The goal of this therapy is to stop the tumors from overproducing hormones that affect other parts of the body. In some kinds of pituitary tumors, using medication to stop hormone production may be the only necessary treatment.

Doctors are always finding new ways to treat pituitary tumors. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, a person should ask his or her doctor if there are any clinical trials he or she should consider.


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