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If you are suspected of having a pituitary tumour, diagnostic imaging techniques can confirm this and establish the exact size and location of the tumour.

Standard treatments for pituitary tumours include:

  • Surgery, which is the main treatment for most pituitary tumours, although they are relatively inaccessible and it is important not to damage surrounding structures. Techniques include:
  • Transsphenoidal surgery, in which the surgical instruments are inserted through a cut made under the upper lip or between the nostrils and through the sphenoid bone to reach the pituitary gland, which lies just above. This involves very low risk of brain damage but is difficult if the tumour is large or has grown into other tissue.
  • Endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery uses an endoscope which has a light, a lens and a tool for removing tumour tissue in a similar procedure.
  • Craniotomy removes the tumour through a hole in the skull, is used rarely and for larger tumours and involves a higher risk of neurological damage.
  • Radiotherapy is effective at destroying tumour cells that remain after surgery.  In stereotactic radiosurgery, a series of intense radiotherapy beams are aimed specifically at every part of the tumour using a CyberKnife®.
  • Chemotherapy can relieve symptoms caused by pituitary carcinomas.
  • Drug treatment can also counteract the hormonal effects of pituitary tumours: this is particularly effective for prolactin-producing tumours, which then do not usually need surgery. Drug treatments include:
  • Replacement hormones if not enough functioning pituitary gland remains after surgery or radiotherapy.
  • Bromocriptine, cabergoline and quinagolide are dopamine agonists that reduce prolactin secretion and shrink even very large prolactin-producing tumours. Surgery is usually only considered if drug treatment hasn’t worked after several months or if the side effects are serious. Having surgery may also be a preferred option for women who wish to become pregnant or for men whose tumours have reached a very advanced stage.
  • Bromocriptine or cabergoline can also reduce thyroid hormone secretion. Another option is octreotide, which is a modified version of a hormone that inhibits the secretion of growth hormone. Octreotide can also treat TSH secreting tumours.

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