The pituitary gland, which is about the size of a pea, is located just under the brain where it lies in a small hollow in the skull, just below the eye. It is responsible for controlling the production of certain hormones by other organs in the body including the thyroid gland, ovaries and testes. It also directly produces other factors which have direct effects on blood pressure, kidney function and the regulation of pain.
The majority of the tumours, called adenomas, are benign and do not spread to other parts of the brain but remain within the gland. Because the pituitary gland has such varied functions, a tumour can be difficult to identify as the symptoms will differ between patients. They may also be similar to symptoms due to changes in the levels of the hormones which it controls. However, in addition to scanning, the presence of the tumour can also be confirmed in some cases by measuring the levels of specific hormones within the blood.
Depending on the exact location within the pituitary gland as well as the size, the tumour may also give rise to other symptoms. These include problems with vision, such as blurring, due to the pressure of the tumour on the eye.
The standard treatment is surgery to remove the tumour followed by chemotherapy to kill any of the remaining tumour cells. However, one of the potential side effects of tumour removal is that the pituitary gland is no longer able to make hormones. People may then be required to take hormone supplements to bring these back to normal levels.
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