Endocrine System Home > Pituitary Adenoma

A pituitary adenoma is a noncancerous growth in the pituitary gland. Most are microadenomas, meaning that they are smaller than 10 millimeters. Those that grow larger than 10 millimeters are called macroadenomas. Symptoms of these tumors vary, but may include headaches, vomiting, and dizziness. Treatment options often include surgery, radiation therapy, and drug therapy.

What Is a Pituitary Adenoma?

A pituitary adenoma is a benign (noncancerous) growth that develops in the pituitary gland.
 

Understanding the Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland, sometimes called the master gland, plays a critical role in regulating growth and development, metabolism, and reproduction. This gland produces a number of key hormones, including:
 
  • Prolactin, which stimulates the breasts to produce milk during pregnancy. After delivery of the baby, a mother's prolactin levels fall unless she breastfeeds her infant. Each time the baby nurses, prolactin levels rise to maintain milk production.
     
  • Growth hormone, which regulates growth.
     
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropin), which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
     
  • Thyrotropin, which signals the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone.
     
  • Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which regulate ovulation and estrogen and progesterone production in women, and sperm formation and testosterone production in men.
     
The pituitary gland sits in the middle of the head in a bony box called the sella turcica. The optic nerves sit directly above the pituitary gland. Enlargement of the gland can cause localized symptoms, such as headaches or visual disturbances.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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