Types of Pituitary Tumors

Pituitary Adenoma

Pituitary adenomas are benign tumors that arise from hormone-producing cells within the pituitary gland.

The majority of these tumors do not produce functioning hormones, and when small they are usually observed with MR scans and not treated.

Pituitary adenomas that produce the hormone prolactin are usually treated with medication alone.

Pituitary adenomas that produce growth hormone, or ACTH, are treated initially with surgery but may require additional treatment with radiation or medication to return hormone levels to normal.

Nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas that have enlarged and that threaten vision are surgically removed as completely as possible; in many cases, patients are cured with surgery alone.

Patients with tumors that cannot be completely removed, or that begin to grow back after an apparently complete removal, may benefit from treatment with some form of radiation.

UT Southwestern’s neurosurgeons work to remove each pituitary adenoma, regardless of its size, as completely as possible in an effort to minimize or delay the need for radiation.

Craniopharyngioma

Craniopharyngiomas are rare, slow-growing tumors that arise from cells around the pituitary stalk and that are found in patients of all ages. These tumors may produce problems with vision or hormone function, and in some cases they interfere with memory.

Craniopharyngiomas often grow in an invasive manner and may reach a large size before discovery. As a result, a complete surgical removal is often not possible. Decision making for tumors that cannot be completely removed aims to control any remaining tumor with the lowest possible risk.

Pituitary Cysts

A number of benign, fluid-filled cysts may arise within or next to the pituitary gland. Many of these cysts are discovered by chance on MR scans obtained to evaluate unrelated problems, such as headaches. When the cysts are small, they are monitored but not immediately treated.

Rarely, a benign cyst will enlarge and threaten vision or hormone function, and in these cases surgery may be advised.