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Pituitary Disorders

Overview

Getting treatment for pituitary gland disorders at City of Hope puts you at the center of some of the most innovative and groundbreaking research and surgical methods for brain tumors. Our neurosurgeons regularly treat difficult cases and use their expertise to design innovative, less invasive surgical approaches — including using fewer incisions to remove most of the tumor tissue to preserve patient functioning and quality of life.

Pituitary disorders we treat include

  • Acromegaly
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Hyperprolactinemia
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Pituitary tumors

Multidisciplinary care

When you get pituitary tumor treatment at City of Hope, you are partnering with a world class team of experts spanning multiple disciplines, who see and treat challenging brain tumors on a daily basis. And you have access to transformative surgical methods and technology, groundbreaking research studies and leading-edge radiation therapy — all with a focus on your quality of life.

It's collective decision making. You have several health care practitioners that know the patient and who bring different information to the table. And making a joint decision is better for the patient." Behnam Badie, director, Brain Tumor Program

 

When it comes to treatment for pituitary disorders, City of Hope has an unmatched reputation for comprehensive and compassionate care. Our team has pioneered state-of-the-art procedures that target tumor cells while minimizing side effects. We bring together broad expertise from multiple disciplines under one roof to provide exceptional care, including:

  • Advanced tests that detect pituitary disorders early, before they do serious harm
  • Minimally invasive surgery targets tumors while preserving healthy tissue
  • Unique surgical expertise removes tumors once considered inoperable
  • Radiation therapy, including ultraprecise helical TomoTherapy
  • Drug and hormone therapy to control irregular hormone production
  • Pioneering drug research and clinical trials

City of Hope’s team of neurosurgeons, endocrinologists, researchers, nurses, radiologists and genetic counselors work together closely at all stages of your care to provide seamless, coordinated care. We balance that approach with personalized medicine — not just when it comes to your condition, but the kind that makes you feel supported throughout your treatment. And our commitment to personalized care means preserving your quality of life is at the heart of your treatment.

Nationally recognized leader

City of Hope is nationally recognized as a leader in the research and treatment of pituitary disorders. If you have been diagnosed with a pituitary disorder or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

What are pituitary tumors?

Pituitary tumors, which start in the pituitary gland, are usually benign (noncancerous) and represent up to 20 percent of all primary brain tumors. They are rare — only 10,000 people are diagnosed with this condition in a typical year, according to the American Cancer Society. Up to one in four people have this type of tumor but never display symptoms.

Getting a pituitary tumor

Pituitary tumors develop when abnormal cells in the pituitary gland (a tiny structure located at the base of the brain responsible for making or storing various hormones) grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, interfering with normal brain and hormonal functioning.

What increases your risk of a pituitary disorder?

Things that put you at higher risk for getting a pituitary disorder are called risk factors. There are very few known causes of pituitary tumors, although family history and certain genetic syndromes play a role in some cases. Risk factors include:

  • Family history: Having multiple family members with pituitary tumors, in rare cases, can dictate whether a person develops one, too.
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I: Changes in a gene called MEN1, which runs in some families, increases the risk of tumors in the pituitary gland.
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type IV: A gene called CDKN1B, when it is dysfunctional, may increase the risk of pituitary tumors.
  • Carney complex is a rare syndrome that results from changes to certain genes and leads to a high risk of pituitary tumors.
  • McCune-Albright syndrome is caused by changes to a gene called GNAS1 and is associated with a higher risk of developing pituitary tumors. People with this syndrome tend to have brown skin patches and bone problems.

Pituitary tumor symptoms

Symptoms of pituitary tumors depend on which part of the gland and what hormone (if any) is being released. Pituitary tumors that grow without affecting hormonal function tend to grow larger and undetected — causing no symptoms until they press on nerves or nearby brain regions — while tumors that cause hormonal symptoms right away tend to be discovered at an earlier stage.

Since the pituitary gland is near the optic nerve, symptoms may include vision problems. Symptoms resulting from disruption in normal brain functioning include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Sudden blindness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weakness, pain or numbness in the face

Symptoms arising from tumors that disrupt normal hormonal functioning include:

  • Nausea
  • Unintended weight loss, gain
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Feeling cold
  • Sexual dysfunction, lack of desire (men)
  • Menstrual problems (women)

Hormonal problems, such as overproduction of growth hormones (acromegaly) or stress hormones (Cushing syndrome) may also signal a pituitary tumor. For a full list click here.

Other medical conditions share these symptoms. If you have any of these conditions, you may need further consultation to rule out a pituitary disorder.

Accurately diagnosing pituitary disorders requires an expert and deeply experienced team that can accurately diagnose you — so that you get the best and most effective treatment. City of Hope’s team of highly trained experts use their clinical expertise, honed by seeing many types of pituitary disorders, to provide you with the most accurate diagnosis.

Tests used to diagnose pituitary tumors

  • A physical exam and medical history will be taken to assess any symptoms you have along with your family history.
  • Hormone levels are tested to determine whether a tumor is causing changes to hormones. These may include tests to gauge whether a tumor is causing abnormal secretion of substances including: growth hormones, insulin-like growth factor-1, follicle-stimulating hormones, adrenocorticotropic hormones, gonadotropin and prolactin.
  • Imaging tests may be used to gauge the size of the tumor and structures that may be involved with the tumor's growth, including:
    • MRI uses magnets and radio waves to create a series of pictures of the brain and nearby structures.
    • CT scan uses X-rays to provide detailed images of brain structures, revealed as thin cross-sections.

Here special treatments are created and routinely performed. When routine therapies stop working, you have options here that you don't elsewhere." Mike Chen, neurosurgeon

City of Hope’s approach to treating pituitary disorders starts with a coordinated, multidisciplinary care team whose main goal is finding a treatment plan that extends your life. We combine leading-edge technologies  like minimally invasive surgery and the latest radiological approaches  with research and clinical trials not found anywhere else.

Our treatment approach involves

  • An initial consultation with an experienced pituitary disorder experts, providing accurate diagnosis, followed by a personalized treatment strategy
  • Input from experts in various subspecialties at every stage of your treatment
  • A treatment plan that evolves as new treatments and clinical trials become available
  • Drug and hormone therapy to control irregular hormone production
  • Palliative care, pain management and counseling

Minimally invasive procedures for pituitary tumors

City of Hope’s neurosurgeons specialize in using minimally invasive procedures whenever possible. By using fewer incisions, our surgeons can extract the tumor with minimal impact to surrounding healthy brain tissue. Minimally invasive procedures used at City of Hope include:

  • Intraoperative cortical mapping, which gives the surgeon a computerized map of key brain regions. By avoiding critical areas, the risk of damage to brain tissue is minimized while still allowing the tumor to be removed.
  • Image-guided surgical navigation, which helps to remove tumors that are difficult to visualize, by using preoperative MRIs.
  • Endoscopic surgery, performed through an endoscope — a thin, lighted tube with a small opening that accommodates tiny surgical tools. Smaller incisions reduce pain and the risk of infection.

City of Hope researchers are also developing a miniaturized surgical system to allow brain surgeries to be even less invasive, with an even lower risk of complications.

Comprehensive care

City of Hope is one of only a few dozen centers in the country that treat pituitary disorders using a comprehensive approach. Your care includes regular interaction and input from a team that includes neurosurgeons, endocrinologists, radiologists and pathologists — along with researchers who collaborate with clinical staff regularly to quickly bring potential therapies from the lab to patients.


 

City of Hope’s renowned physicians and researchers use the latest in technology and innovation to treat pituitary tumors, coupled with an enduring belief in providing unparalleled compassionate care. Call 800-826-HOPE or go online to request an appointment.

Anatomic Pathology

Massimo D'Apuzzo, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Anatomic Pathology

Diagnostic Radiology

Bihong (Beth) Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Diagnostic Radiology
Julie Ann Ressler, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Diagnostic Radiology

Endocrinology

Ken C Chiu, M.D., F.A.C.E.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology
Behrouz Salehian-Dardashti, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology

Neurology

Neal Prakash, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Neurology

Neurosurgery

Behnam Badie, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Clinical Specialties

  • Neurosurgery
Mike Y. Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Neurosurgery
Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Neurosurgery

Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery

Ellie Maghami, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Clinical Specialties

  • Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery

Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

Clarke Anderson, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

Radiation Oncology

Savita Dandapani, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Radiation Oncology
Eric H. Radany, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Radiation Oncology

Research

Clinical trials – research studies that involve volunteer patients – are a crucial component to developing new, more effective treatments that save lives. Many of today’s standard therapies are based on the results of previous trials, some of which were initiated at City of Hope.

Getting treated for a pituitary disorder at City of Hope means you are steps away from labs where new treatments for cancer are being developed every day. That proximity means you benefit from something unique in cancer care — bench to bedside treatment. “Bench to bedside” means innovative research we are conducting in our labs is moved quickly to the bedside to treat our patients.

City of Hope conducts a wide variety of clinical trials, many of them not available to the general public. Current research ranges from genetic testing to developing better imaging techniques to DNA-based growth hormone therapy.

When you come to City of Hope, you automatically gain access to an unparalleled array of support services to help you and your family take each step in your pituitary disorder treatment and recovery.

Find answers to your questions here:

  • Managing cancer and treatment effects: pain, fatigue, nausea
  • Preserving and restoring mental faculties
  • Palliative care to control pain
  • Navigating the health care system
  • Your emotional, social and spiritual health
  • Staying healthy and active
  • Healing arts
  • Caregiver skills
  • Dealing with family stress

Learn more about these resources at our Living with Cancer or Supportive Care Medicine sites.

Additional resources

Learn more about

Support the Pituitary Disorder Program

We deliver exquisite care at the leading edge of cancer treatment. It takes the help of a lot of caring people to make hope a reality for our patients. City of Hope was founded by individuals' philanthropic efforts over 100 years ago. Their efforts  and those of our supporters today  have built the foundation for the care we provide and the research we conduct.

For more information on supporting this specific program, please contact Julie Hara. Or, you can make a gift to support all the research at City of Hope by donating online.

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