Pituitary Tumors Functioning

Condition

Functioning tumors produce too much of a hormone normally made by the pituitary gland. Functioning pituitary tumors and the conditions they cause include:

How are functioning tumors diagnosed?

After evaluating your symptoms, your doctor will order blood tests to measure hormone levels. Your doctor will also order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to look at the pituitary and other structures around it. If a pituitary tumor is found, more blood tests will be done to find out if your tumor is making too much of a specific hormone. Your doctor needs to know the type of tumor to plan treatment. Testing may also be needed to see if the tumor is affecting your vision.

A prolactinoma is the most common secretory tumor, accounting for about 40% of pituitary tumors. This tumor produces too much prolactin, the hormone that causes milk production, also called hyperprolactinemia. Prolactinomas affect both men and women with now known cause. While milk leaking from breasts is one of the symptoms of a prolactinoma in women, and occasionally in men, there are many other signs of this kind of tumor. 

Symptoms include:

How are functioning tumors diagnosed?

After evaluating your symptoms, your doctor will order blood tests to measure hormone levels. Your doctor will also order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to look at the pituitary and other structures around it. If a pituitary tumor is found, more blood tests will be done to find out what type of tumor it is. Your doctor needs to know the type of tumor to plan treatment. Testing may also be needed to see if the tumor is affecting your vision.

How are prolactinoma tumors treated?

Prolactinoma is mostly treated successfully with drugs called dopamine agonists. This kind of drug should eliminate or reduce symptoms, lower prolactin levels and usually return them to normal, help correct the function of the pituitary, and usually reduce the tumor size.

Dopamine agonists are taken in a form of a pill. The most common side effects are nausea and dizziness. Sometimes the medication does not work, so your doctor might recommend surgery. Radiation therapy is rarely used to treat prolactinomas. If the tumor is very small and is not growing or causing symptoms, your doctor might recommend monitoring the tumor carefully without treatment.

What are the symptoms of adrenal crisis?

Physical stress caused by illness, infection, surgery, or an accident can suddenly make symptoms of AI much worse, an emergency illness called an adrenal crisis. If untreated, adrenal crisis can cause death. Adrenal crisis occurs mainly in people with primary AI. 

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What medication do I need to take for my prolactinoma?
  • What are the side effects of the medication?
  • How long will I need to take medication, will I be able to stop it in the future?
  • Should I take a dopamine agonist if I am planning pregnancy?
  • What should I do in case of pregnancy?
  • How often do I need an MRI scan?
  • How often do I need blood tests?
  • Should I see an endocrinologist?
  • How is my pituitary function? Do I need to take any hormones?
  • Can I take a birth control pill with my medications?
Last Updated:
FEATURED RESOURCE

Find an Endocrinologist

Find an endocrinologist today to ensure that you are on the path to health with the right medical care. Keep Your Body In Balance!


YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN...

About this Content

The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.

Ensuring the Quality of our Content

All Network materials, including the content on this site, are reviewed by experts in the field of endocrinology to ensure the most balanced, accurate, and relevant information available. The information on this site and Network publications do not replace the advice of a trained healthcare provider.

Advertisements and Site Content

Paid advertisements appear on the Hormone Health Network. Advertising participation does not influence editorial decisions or content.

Back to top