The pituitary gland is located on the undersurface of the brain and is responsible for producing or controlling a large number of hormones. A tumor in this gland can cause symptoms by either over / under production of hormones or by causing compression of structures passing close to it.
As with most tumors the exact cause of these tumors is not known. A higher incidence of these tumors is seen with some congenital syndromes but the cause most of the tumors is not known. And as we do not know what causes them there is not much that we can do to prevent them.
These tumors are most common in the 3rd and 4th decade of life. They may present with endocrine disturbance or mass effect due to compression of surrounding structures.
Endocrine disturbance associated with pituitary tumors include overproduction and underproduction syndromes. Overproduction of the hormones can affect the thyroid hormone, growth hormone causes increasing size of hands and feet, prolactin overproduction causing stoppage of menstrual cycles with nipple discharge. Overproduction of the steroid hormones can also occur.
Underproduction of the hormones can affect the thyroid hormone (weight gain, dry skin, increased sleep), growth hormone ( growth delay in children, vague symptoms in adults), gonadal hormones ( amenorrhea, loss of libido, infertility) and other syndromes.
The mass effect by the tumor can cause visual disturbances in the form of reduced vision or reduction of field of vision. If very large then it can cause hydrocephalus, drooping of eyelids and double vision.
The treatment options include surgery, gamma knife radiosurgery, radiotherapy and medical management. The medical therapy is usually used if the tumor cannot be controlled by surgery except for prolactinoma where it may be the preferred modality of treatment. The treatment of a patient is decided taking many factors into account and this discussion aims to sensitize about the options available.