What is Pituitary Cancer?

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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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Pituitary cancer is a tumor that develops in the pituitary gland. Most pituitary tumors are benign. The cause of pituitary cancer has yet to be identified, however, certain people may have a genetic predisposition. Due to the pituitary gland’s role in the maintaining of homeostasis, or the regulation of body processes through the release of hormones, the symptoms of pituitary cancer vary based on the type of hormone the tumor interferes with or inhibits. Doctors typically rely on blood or urine samples to diagnose pituitary cancer. Treatment methods employed and the likelihood recovery are both contingent on when the pituitary cancer is discovered and whether the tumor is benign or malignant.

In the body, the creation and division of cells is a controlled process. Tumors are the result of unchecked cell growth. If unrestricted cell growth does not extend beyond the point of origin the result is a benign tumor; cell growth that spreads to and damages other tissues or organs in the body result in a malignant tumor. Most cases of pituitary cancer involve a benign tumor. Pituitary adenoma is a benign tumor that causes health issues because its size affects surrounding areas or because it secretes extra hormones that disrupt bodily processes.


Although the exact cause of pituitary cancer has yet to be identified, doctors have identified several risk factors that increase the likelihood of such tumors emerging. Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is a disorder that causes certain glands in the body to release more hormones than necessary. This affliction is inherited and has a high rate of pituitary cancer associated with it. Carney syndrome is another inherited infirmity that causes certain genes to mutate. The mutation of these genes sometimes yields pituitary tumors.

Pituitary tumors interfere with the pituitary gland’s production of hormones. Consequently, children with pituitary cancer may experience inhibited growth and development. Women with this type of cancer may not menstruate as often as expected. Men may lose their hair or experience a decrease in their desire for sexual activity due to lower testosterone levels.

Blood and urine tests are the most accurate indicators of this type of cancer. A paucity of testosterone or excess level of estrogen indicates a possible pituitary tumor. Certain substances in urine also reveal pituitary tumors in a lab test.

Pituitary tumors that are malignant are rare. Malignant tumors can be fatal however. If left undetected or untreated, rampant cell growth has the ability to spread to other parts of the body and cause damage to other organs via the bloodstream. Surgical extraction is the most common way pituitary cancer is extracted. Radiation therapy, the administration of high energy x-rays in the area of a tumor, has also emerged as a possible treatment.


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