Endocrine System Home > Pituitary Tumor

A pituitary tumor is a growth that forms in the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ in the center of the brain). In most cases, these tumors are benign, or non-cancerous. These are called pituitary adenomas; however, some tumors are cancerous. These are called pituitary carcinomas. These tumors are also classified according to their size and whether they produce hormones. Treatment options include drug therapy, surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

What Is a Pituitary Tumor?

A pituitary tumor is a tumor that forms in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ in the center of the brain above the back of the nose. It produces hormones that affect other glands and many bodily functions, especially growth. Most pituitary tumors are benign (non-cancerous).
 

Understanding the Pituitary

The pituitary gland, sometimes called the master gland, plays a critical role in regulating growth and development, metabolism, and reproduction. The pituitary gland produces a number of key hormones, including:
 
  • Prolactin, which stimulates the breast 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.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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