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Pituitary Tumor: Treatment Choices 


Different types of treatments can be used for pituitary tumors. Which may work best for you? It depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • If the tumor is cancer. Most pituitary tumors are not cancer.

  • If the tumor is smaller than 1 cm (microadenoma)

  • If the tumor is larger than 1 cm (macroadenoma)

  • If the tumor makes hormones (functional)

  • What kinds of hormones the tumor makes

  • If and what kind of problems the tumor is causing

  • Where the tumor is and if it has spread to nearby tissues

  • Your age and overall health

  • Your preferences

Learning about your treatment options

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are and how well they might work. Your healthcare provider can also tell you what the risks and side effects may be.

Types of treatment

In most cases, pituitary tumors are treated with:

  • Surgery

  • Radiation therapy

  • Medicines that stop the tumor from making hormones

If the tumor is not causing any problems, treatment may not even be needed. In this case, watchful waiting is done. This means you are watched closely and have blood or urine tests done regularly to check for tumor growth. Treatment would then be started only if the tumor starts causing problems.

Goals of treatment

Each type of treatment has its own goal:

Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the whole tumor from the pituitary gland. This is possible with most microadenomas, but may be less likely with macroadenomas. Sometimes the whole pituitary gland must be removed. Medicines are then needed to make the hormones that the pituitary gland used to make.

Radiation. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill the tumor using beams of high-energy X-rays or particles. This treatment is often used when:

  • Surgery can’t be done.

  • Medicine isn’t controlling the symptoms caused by the tumor.

  • The whole pituitary tumor can’t be removed during surgery.

  • The pituitary tumor comes back after surgery.

Medicines to block hormone production. The goal of this therapy is to stop the tumors from making excess hormones that affect other parts of the body. For some kinds of pituitary tumors, this may be the only treatment needed.

Clinical trials for new treatments

Healthcare providers are always finding new ways to treat pituitary tumors. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, ask your healthcare provider if there are any clinical trials you should consider.

Talking with your healthcare provider

At first, thinking about treatment options may seem overwhelming. Talk with your healthcare providers, nurses, and loved ones. Make a list of questions. Think about the benefits, risks, and possible side effects of each option. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider before making a decision. 

Make sure you ask how the treatment will change your daily life. This includes your diet, and how you will look and feel after treatment. Ask how successful the treatment is expected to be, and what the risks and possible side effects are. You may also want to ask a friend or family member to go with you. He or she can take notes and write down the answers, and also ask questions you may not think of.

You may also want to consider getting a second opinion before starting treatment. This might help you feel better about the choices you're making. The peace of mind a second opinion gives you may be well worth the effort.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.