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What are Pituitary Tumours?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 15, 2013
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

Pituitary Tumours

The pituitary gland is a pea sized structure attached to the undersurface of your brain with the help of a thin stalk. This gland sits on a tiny bone space that is called the sella turcica, the nerves that connect the eyes to the brain are called the optic nerves and they run close to it.

The pituitary gland sometimes is also called the master gland because; it produces hormones that regulate many bodily functions, including the production of:

•    thyroid hormone,
•    sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone,
•    adrenalin,
•    growth hormone,
•    breast milk,
•    anti-diuretic hormone that helps control water balance.

The tumors that develop in the pituitary gland are usually small in size and localised; they grow slowly and start in one type of hormone-producing pituitary cells. The good news is that these tumors are almost always benign (noncancerous), however, they have the potential to cause significant symptoms by:

•    producing too much of one of the pituitary hormones,
•    suppressing the normal function of other cells in the pituitary gland,
•    growing large enough to press on the nearby optic nerves (nerves that carry vision impulses from the eyes to the brain) or on parts of the brain itself.

A pituitary tumor is classified as one of four main types, based on whether it overproduces pituitary hormones and the specific type of hormone produced:

ACTH-producing tumor

It is also called a basophilic adrenocorticotrophic hormone or ACTH; it is the pituitary hormone that regulates hormone production by adrenal gland. As this pituitary tumor releases excess of ACTH into the human bloodstream, the excess of it over-stimulates the adrenal glands, so as to pour out high levels of adrenal hormones and male hormones into the blood. In most cases, an ACTH-producing tumor is small and doesn't grow beyond the sella turcica.

Prolactin-producing tumor

Also known as the prolactin-secreting adenoma, this pituitary tumor overproduces the hormone prolactin and stimulates the breasts to make milk. Prolactin-producing pituitary tumors can develop in both men and women, and they sometimes grow so big that they press on the sella turcica thus, causing it to get larger.

Growth hormone-producing tumor

Also known as eosinophilic growth hormone-secreting adenoma, this abnormally secretes large amounts of growth hormone. When this occurs in children and teenagers, over production of growth hormone actually causes a condition, which is called gigantism. In adults this is a condition that is called acromegaly or the abnormal enlargement of the skull, jaw hands and feet.

Non-functioning pituitary tumor

Also known as hormonally inactive adenoma, this does not produce pituitary hormones and is slow to produce symptoms, and due to this, the tumor tends to grow large before it is discovered. In many cases, a nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma is diagnosed only when, it already has grown beyond the sella turcica and has begun to cause problems related to pressure on the optic nerves or brain.

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