Pituitary tumours and endocrine neurosurgery

Our multi-disciplinary team provide a full range of treatment for patients with pituitary tumours, including radiotherapy and specialist endocrine neurosurgery.

The vast majority of tumours in the pituitary gland are called adenomas and are benign, which means they are not cancerous. Some can exist for years without causing symptoms, but others can cause a range of problems, such as excessive tiredness, muscle weakness, irregular periods, dry skin or low blood pressure. The symptoms each patient will experience will depend on which of the hormones normally produced by the pituitary gland are being affected by the growth.

Your GP will refer you to Addenbrooke’s Hospital if they suspect you have a pituitary problem. During your first appointment, we will take your full medical history, find out more about your symptoms and carry out a physical examination. Your consultant will also look at the back of your eyes to check your field of vision and take a blood test to check your hormone levels. In some cases, we may refer you for a MRI or CT scan so that we can examine your pituitary gland in more detail.

It is important to remember that although almost all pituitary tumours are benign, they may still need treatment. As surgery is the most common treatment, you might be referred to our neurosurgeons who will talk through the procedure with you and answer any questions you may have. During the operation, your surgeon will remove as much of the tumour as possible without damaging any of the nerves or tissues around it. Where possible, they will aim to leave some of the pituitary gland behind, but in other cases they may need to remove it all. The pituitary gland is usually reached through a small cut on the inside of the roof of the nose or under the upper lip, which means recovery is much quicker than other operations for brain tumours.

Following your procedure, your neurosurgeon may also recommend a course of radiotherapy, which uses high-energy rays to destroy abnormal cells. If the whole of your pituitary gland has been removed, you may also be prescribed hormone replacement drugs to help regulate your body. You may be asked to come back to hospital for regular check-ups and blood tests following your treatment, while your neurosurgeon may also request additional scans to make sure your tumour does not return.  

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