Saturday, January 24, 2009

New York Times Article on Pituitary Tumors


A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that regulates the body's balance of hormones.

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary regulates and controls the release of hormones from other endocrine glands, which in turn regulate many body processes. These hormones include:

  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
  • Growth hormone (GH)
  • Prolactin
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)

About 75% of pituitary tumors release hormones. When a tumor produces too much of one or more hormones, the following conditions may occur:

As the tumor grows, hormone-secreting cells of the pituitary may be damaged, causing hypopituitarism.

The causes of pituitary tumors are unknown, although some are a part of a hereditary disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia I (MEN I).

There are other types of tumors that can be found in the same area of the head as a pituitary tumor:

  • Craniopharyngiomas
  • Cysts
  • Germinomas
  • Tumors that have spread from cancer in another part of the body (metastatic tumors)

About 15% of tumors in the skull are pituitary tumors. Most pituitary tumors are located in the anterior pituitary lobe and are usually noncancerous (benign).

Pituitary tumors develop in about 20% of people, although many of the tumors do not cause symptoms and the condition is never diagnosed during the person's lifetime...


This article also includes causes; a comprehensive symptoms list; treatments and much more. Read it at


MaryONote: It's so nice to see articles like this getting out into the mainstream press. For so many years pituitary tumors weren't talked about. As a matter of fact, often when I've told people about my surgery they didn't even know where the pituitary gland was located. Many would indicate the abdominal area and think it was there.

Hopefully, with more news items in papers and on TV the general public will be more aware of the pituitary (and adrenal) and their various locations.

Someday...I wish...that people will be aware of Cushing's like they are of thyroid issues or diabetes. not that I wish that more people had Cushing's, of course, but I'd just like to see more awareness, knowledge and understanding.

Someday, I hope that people will be tested more routinely for these "orphan diseases", doctors won't automatically decide that the patient is causing his/her own symptoms and get to the diagnostic and treatment phases more quickly.

A statistic I've seen many times over the years, that 20% of all people have a pituitary tumor was mentioned in this article:

Pituitary tumors develop in about 20% of people, although many of the tumors do not cause symptoms and the condition is never diagnosed during the person's lifetime.

The last part is especially scary: "the condition is never diagnosed during the person's lifetime."

How about getting people diagnosed - and cured - while they're still alive?


  1. My wife's a veterinarian, and she says they diagnose a case of Cushing's in dogs every day. I wonder why it's so unknown among doctors.

    Well, let's add this to the set of evidence that "health professionals can't do it alone," as it says on top of the e-patient blog.

  2. Dave, it's so unfortunate but true. I would not have started my website at all if I had found info about people with Cushing's online.

    The first time I did a search online, all the Cushing's sites were for dogs and horses. These days, ferrets and the occasional cat get Cushing's and THEY have support sites.

    When talking to any non-Cushie, if they have ever heard of Cushing's it's usually because a dog they know had it.

    Unfortunately, it's not all that rare among people. Med students learn about Cushing's for less than a day and figure they'll never have a patient with Cushing's so they put their knowledge aside.

    So many Cushing's patients are initially told that they're just fat and/or depressed. I was one of those but I persevered for 5 years before I was finally diagnosed.

    In my bio at I tell about how I knew what I had and doctor after doctor said that I couldn't have Cushing's. That it was too rare. They wouldn't even run basic tests.

    People today have it a little easier but I still learn of people who have gone 20-30 years with Cushing's symptoms and no diagnosis. It's really scary.