Procedure

Pituitary Tumors Treatment- Cancer/Oncology, Endocrinology

Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Pituitary Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.

KEY POINTS

  • There are different types of treatment for patients with pituitary tumors.
  • Four types of standard treatment are used:
    • Surgery
    • Radiation therapy
    • Drug therapy
    • Chemotherapy
  • New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
  • Treatment for pituitary tumors may cause side effects.
  • Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
  • Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
  • Follow-up tests may be needed.

There are different types of treatment for patients with pituitary tumors.

Different types of treatments are available for patients with pituitary tumors. Some treatments are standard(the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Four types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

Many pituitary tumors can be removed by surgery using one of the following operations:

  • Transsphenoidal surgery: A type of surgery in which the instruments are inserted into part of the brain by going through an incision (cut) made under the upper lip or at the bottom of the nose between the nostrils and then through the sphenoid bone (a butterfly-shaped bone at the base of the skull) to reach the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland lies just above the sphenoid bone.
  • Endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery: A type of surgery in which an endoscope is inserted through an incision (cut) made at the back of the inside of the nose and then through the sphenoid bone to reach the pituitary gland. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light, a lens for viewing, and a tool for removing tumor tissue.
  • Craniotomy: Surgery to remove the tumor through an opening made in the skull.

After the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Certain ways of giving radiation therapy can help keep radiation from damaging nearby healthy tissue. This type of radiation therapy may include the following:
    • Stereotactic radiosurgery: A rigid head frame is attached to the skull to keep the head still during the radiation treatment. A machine aims a single large dose of radiation directly at the tumor. This procedure does not involve surgery. It is also called stereotaxic radiosurgery, radiosurgery, and radiation surgery.
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type of the cancer being treated. External radiation therapy is used to treat pituitary tumors.

Drug therapy

Drugs may be given to stop a functioning pituitary tumor from making too many hormones.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used as palliative treatment for pituitary carcinomas, to relieve symptoms and improve the patient's quality of life. Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavitysuch as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type of the cancer being treated.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

Treatment for pituitary tumors may cause side effects.

For information about side effects caused by treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.

Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI’s clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

Follow-up tests may be needed.

Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.

Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.

Treatment Options for Pituitary Tumors

  • Non-functioning Pituitary Tumors
  • Prolactin-Producing Pituitary Tumors
  • ACTH-Producing Pituitary Tumors
  • Growth Hormone–Producing Pituitary Tumors
  • Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone–Producing Tumors
  • Pituitary Carcinomas
  • Recurrent Pituitary Tumors

Non-functioning Pituitary Tumors

Treatment may include the following:

  • Surgery (transsphenoidal surgery, if possible) to remove the tumor, followed by watchful waiting (closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change). Radiation therapy is given if the tumor comes back.
  • Radiation therapy alone.

Treatment for luteinizing hormone -producing and follicle-stimulating hormone -producing tumors is usually transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor.

Prolactin-Producing Pituitary Tumors

Treatment may include the following:

  • Drug therapy to stop the tumor from making prolactin and to stop the tumor from growing.
  • Surgery to remove the tumor (transsphenoidal surgery or craniotomy) when the tumor does not respondto drug therapy or when the patient cannot take the drug.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Surgery followed by radiation therapy.

ACTH-Producing Pituitary Tumors

Treatment may include the following:

  • Surgery (usually transsphenoidal surgery) to remove the tumor, with or without radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy alone.
  • Drug therapy to stop the tumor from making ACTH.
  • A clinical trial of stereotactic radiation surgery.

Growth Hormone–Producing Pituitary Tumors

Treatment may include the following:

  • Surgery (usually transsphenoidal or endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery) to remove the tumor, with or without radiation therapy.
  • Drug therapy to stop the tumor from making growth hormone.

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone–Producing Tumors

Treatment may include the following:

  • Surgery (usually transsphenoidal surgery) to remove the tumor, with or without radiation therapy.
  • Drug therapy to stop the tumor from making hormones.

Pituitary Carcinomas

Treatment of pituitary carcinomas is palliative, to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life. Treatment may include the following:

  • Surgery (transsphenoidal surgery or craniotomy) to remove the cancer, with or without radiation therapy.
  • Drug therapy to stop the tumor from making hormones.
  • Chemotherapy.

Recurrent Pituitary Tumors

Treatment may include the following:

  • Radiation therapy.
  • A clinical trial of stereotactic radiation surgery.
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