Pituitary tumors are complex, affecting many different functions of the body. Because of their delicate location (at the base of the brain) and the important functions they control (including growth, sexual function and metabolism), treating pituitary tumors requires a high level of skill and experience.

The specialists at MedStar Pituitary Center focus exclusively on treating pituitary tumors and other pituitary disorders, giving us a unique depth of expertise. Combined with our advanced technology, we deliver the comprehensive, effective care you need. Meet our team.

What is a Pituitary Tumor?

A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth that starts in the pituitary gland, located just below the brain. The pituitary gland is connected to the hypothalamus, linking the brain and the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing various hormones in your body. The pituitary gland is often called the “master gland” because the hormones it makes control the level of hormones made by the other endocrine glands.

Pituitary tumors can cause an excess of hormone production or they can restrict hormone production, causing your body to produce lower levels. There are two parts of the pituitary gland:

  • Anterior pituitary: Most pituitary tumors begin here. The anterior pituitary makes several hormones, including:
    • Growth hormone (GH): An excess of GH in an adult can cause acromegaly.
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): TSH regulates metabolism, and too much can cause hyperthyroidism.
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH): An excess of ACTH causes Cushing’s disease.
    • Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): These hormones affect reproductive glands in men and women.
    • Prolactin: This hormone is responsible for milk production in women; too much can cause irregular menstrual periods in women.
  • Posterior pituitary: Hormones made by the hypothalamus (vasopressin and oxytocin) are stored in the posterior pituitary. Tumors on the posterior pituitary are rare and may affect the following hormones:
    • Vasopressin, or antidiuretic hormone (ADH): ADH allows the kidneys to retain water. Too little ADH can cause diabetes insipidus.
    • Oxytocin: This hormone helps the uterus contract when a woman is in labor and stimulates the breasts to release milk.

Our team includes one of the only specialists in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in treating rare, complex posterior pituitary tumors. Thanks to this expertise, MedStar Pituitary Center is uniquely situated to handle any complications or problems relating to posterior pituitary tumors.

Symptoms of a Pituitary Tumor

Part of the complexity in diagnosing pituitary tumors is that they can cause a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms vary widely depending on the type of tumor you have.

Patients may delay seeing a doctor because they mistake the symptoms as being related to another condition. That’s why it’s important to undergo diagnosis and treatment at a center dedicated to pituitary disorders.

Symptoms of Non-functional Pituitary Tumors

These are tumors that may go unrecognized until they become large enough to compress nerves and other parts of the brain. Symptoms include:

  • Vision problems (blurry, double vision, loss of peripheral vision)
  • Headaches or other facial pain
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • More frequent urination
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction

Symptoms of Functional Tumors

So-called “functional” tumors are those that continue to secrete hormones, typically in excess amounts. Symptoms vary depending on which hormones are affected:

  • Cortisone secretion:
    • Excess fat around your waist, upper back and face
    • Hump on your upper back
    • High blood pressure and high blood sugar
    • Weakness
    • Thinning of your skin
    • Unexplained anxiety or depression
  • Growth hormone secretion:
    • Enlarged hands and feed
    • Excess sweating
    • Heart problems
    • Joint pain
    • Excess body hair
    • Accelerated growth in children
  • Prolactin secretion:
    • Irregular or lack of menstrual periods
    • Breasts producing milky discharge
    • In men: Erectile dysfunction (ED), infertility and loss of sex drive
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone secretion:
    • Sudden weight loss
    • Rapid heart beat
    • Irritability
    • Frequent bowel movements

Diagnosing Pituitary Tumors

The first step in diagnosing your specific condition is to have an initial evaluation with one of our experts.

You may need to undergo imaging studies to aid in diagnosis. Neuro-radiologists who specialize in reading and interpreting imaging scans will perform your tests, usually an MRI and CT scan. Our team works together to make an accurate diagnosis so we can create an effective and personalized treatment plan for you.

Learn more about our approach to diagnosing pituitary tumors.

Pituitary Tumor Treatment

Because of their complexity, pituitary tumors do not have a single mode of treatment. Options include watchful waiting, medical management, surgery and radiation therapy. We monitor your progress during treatment to ensure the tumor is responding, and you aren’t experiencing any complications.

Find out more about pituitary tumor treatments at MedStar Pituitary Center.

Contact Us

To make an appointment, or for more information, contact us at 844-PITUITARY (748-8482).