Pituitary Tumors

Many tumors that involve the pituitary gland are benign, which means they won’t spread to the rest of the body and often may be completely removed by an experienced team of surgeons, leaving the patient cured.

Most of the pituitary tumors that can’t be completely removed may be controlled with a combination of radiation and medical management. UT Southwestern Medical Center has one of the highest-volume pituitary tumor programs in the state of Texas, which is important because surgical outcomes for patients with pituitary tumors are better at high-volume centers than at low-volume centers.

Our neurosurgeons evaluate hundreds of pituitary tumor patients annually and surgically remove 50 or more tumors each year. We are supported by a large team of physicians and nurses equally experienced in the management of pituitary disorders.

Neurosurgeons at UT Southwestern work closely with colleagues in ophthalmology and endocrinology, both at UT Southwestern and in independent settings throughout North Texas. We encourage patients seeking a surgical opinion with us to maintain relationships with their original or referring physician whenever possible.

About Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary gland is a small, rounded structure, normally the size of a kidney bean, located in a depression below the brain, in the center of the base of the skull.

The gland is joined to the brain by a slender stalk, similar in size to the one that joins a cherry to the branch of a cherry tree. The brain uses this stalk to communicate with the pituitary gland and to control many of the body's hormones.

Pituitary tumors of all sizes may cause problems by interfering with the regulation of hormone production. The two optic nerves join the brain just above the pituitary gland, and for that reason, vision may also be affected by enlarging tumors in this region. Evaluation of a patient with a pituitary tumor is a complex process and usually involves an endocrinologist to evaluate hormone function and an ophthalmologist to evaluate vision, in addition to a neurosurgeon to evaluate the possible benefit of surgery.

Types of pituitary tumors include:

  • Pituitary adenomas – benign tumors that arise from hormone-producing cells within the pituitary gland
  • Craniopharyngiomas – rare, slow-growing tumors that arise from cells around the pituitary stalk and that are found in patients of all ages
  • Pituitary cysts – a number of benign, fluid-filled cysts that can arise within or next to the pituitary gland

Learn more about types of pituitary tumors.

Treatments

At UT Southwestern, we promptly see patients with pituitary tumors producing hormone dysfunction or affecting vision. There may be a slight wait for small tumors that have not affected vision or hormone function. Examples of treatments we provide include:

  • Medical treatment – Many pituitary tumors do not require surgery and can be treated with medicines.
  • Minimally invasive surgery – We can remove most pituitary tumors through the nose with minimally invasive techniques, using either a surgical microscope or an endoscope.
  • Radiation therapy – Patients with pituitary tumors that cannot be completely removed, or that begin to grow back after an apparently complete removal, may benefit from treatment with radiation therapy.

Learn more about treatments for pituitary tumors.

Pituitary Tumor Specialists

Neurosurgery

Samuel Barnett, M.D.

Samuel Barnett, M.D.

  • Neurosurgeon
Bruce Mickey, M.D.

Bruce Mickey, M.D.

  • Neurosurgeon
Toral Patel, M.D.

Toral Patel, M.D.

  • Neurosurgeon

Otolaryngology

Brandon Isaacson, M.D.

Brandon Isaacson, M.D.

  • Neurotologist

How We Can Help

Most patients seen in the UT Southwestern pituitary tumor program are referred to one of our neurosurgeons by a primary care physician, an ophthalmologist, or an endocrinologist. You may ask to be referred to us by your physician, or you may contact us for a second opinion by calling 214-645-8300.