What You Should Know About Pituitary Tumors

Ask the Experts

Igor Kravets, MD
Endocrinologist, Assistant Professor Division of Endocrinology,
Diabetes and Metabolism
Stony Brook Medicine
Raphael Davis, MD
Neurosurgeon, Professor and Chair Department of Neurosurgery
Co-Director, Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute

 

Where do pituitary tumors form?
Dr. Kravets: A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the pituitary gland, which is a small, pea-sized organ located in the center of the brain, behind the nose and eyes. The pituitary is a “master gland” of the body; it produces many hormones that control other endocrine glands and certain functions of the body.
Are they mostly benign or malignant?
Dr. Davis: Most pituitary tumors are benign (non-cancerous). However, because of the location of the pituitary gland at the base of the skull, pituitary tumors can cause problems since they grow upward. Eventually some will press against the area where the optic nerves intersect, causing vision problems. They can also cause hormonal imbalance.What causes pituitary tumors?
Dr. Kravets: No one knows for sure what causes pituitary tumors. About one to five percent of pituitary tumors occur within families. Most are not inherited, however there are certain, rare, inherited conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1), that carry a higher risk of pituitary tumors.

What are the different types of pituitary tumors?
Dr. Davis: Adenomas are benign tumors that develop on the pituitary gland behind the eyes. These tumors can change levels in hormone production or cause vision loss. Craniopharyngiomas are benign tumors that develop at the base of the brain where it meets the pituitary gland. They commonly affect children 5 to 10 years of age, but adults can sometimes be affected in their 50s and 60s.

What are the symptoms?
Dr. Kravets: Symptoms vary depending on the type and size of a pituitary tumor but not all pituitary tumors cause symptoms. Many pituitary tumors are not diagnosed until symptoms appear. Some pituitary tumors are found incidentally on brain imaging obtained for a reason unrelated to the pituitary. Certain symptoms may develop when pituitary tumors grow so large that they exert pressure on surrounding structures.

Such symptoms include:
• Changes in vision (particularly loss of peripheral/outer edge vision)
• Headache

Other symptoms are related to either deficiency or excessive production of certain hormones. Common symptoms caused by such hormonal disturbances include:
• Menstrual cycle changes (irregular or lack of menstrual periods
• Erectile dysfunction or loss of sex drive
• Weight changes
• Production of breast milk by a woman who has not given birth
• Accelerated or stunted growth in a child or teenager
• Growth of the hands, feet, forehead and jaw in adults
• Development of a round face, a hump between the shoulders or both

How is a pituitary tumor diagnosed?
Dr. Kravets: An endocrinologist will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing, and about your personal and family health history. He or she will perform a physical exam and order tests of your blood and urine. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan may also be ordered to obtain detailed images of the brain and the pituitary gland. In rare instances, a biopsy (surgical procedure to remove a small sample of the tumor for examination) is required.

What treatments are available?
Dr. Davis: Treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy or medication. Transsphenoidal surgery is surgery performed through the nose and sphenoid sinus (located in the very back part of the nose, just beneath the base of the brain) to remove a pituitary tumor. It can be performed with an endoscope, microscope or both and is a team effort between neurosurgeons and ear, nose and throat (otolaryngology/ENT) surgeons. Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill the tumor cells and is recommended when surgery is not an option, if the pituitary tumor remains, or if the tumor causes symptoms that are not relieved by medicine.

Why choose Stony Brook?
Dr. Kravets: Our Pituitary Care Center provides access to all of the coordinated expert care you need in one location, close to home — which can make the course of your treatment easier. Our team includes specialists from endocrinology, neurosurgery, otolaryngology (ENT), radiation oncology, neuropathology, neuroradiology, neuro-ophthalmology, and patient education and support.

To make an appointment with one of our Pituitary Care Center endocrinologists, call
(631) 444-0580. To make an appointment with one of our Pituitary Care Center neurosurgeons,
call (631) 444-1213. To learn more, visit stonybrookmedicine.edu/pituitary.

All health and health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. The information is intended to offer only general information for individuals to discuss with their healthcare provider. It is not intended to constitute a medical diagnosis or treatment or endorsement of any particular test, treatment, procedure, service, etc. Reliance on information provided is at the user’s risk. Your healthcare provider should be consulted regarding matters concerning the medical condition, treatment, and needs of you and your family. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.

From https://www.stonybrookmedicine.edu/patientcare/pituitarytumors

Cushing’s Syndrome Treatments

Medications, Surgery, and Other Treatments for Cushing’s Syndrome

Written by | Reviewed by Daniel J. Toft MD, PhD

Treatment for Cushing’s syndrome depends on what symptoms you’re experiencing as well as the cause of Cushing’s syndrome.

Cushing’s syndrome is caused by an over-exposure to the hormone cortisol. This excessive hormone exposure can come from a tumor that’s over-producing either cortisol or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH—which stimulates the body to make cortisol). It can also come from taking too many corticosteroid medications over a long period of time; corticosteroids mimic the effect of cortisol in the body.

The goal of treatment is to address the over-exposure. This article walks you through the most common treatments for Cushing’s syndrome.

Gradually decreasing corticosteroid medications: If your doctor has identified that the cause of your Cushing’s syndrome is corticosteroid medications, you may be able to manage your Cushing’s syndrome symptoms by reducing the overall amount of corticosteroids you take.

It’s common for some people with certain health conditions—such as arthritis and asthma—to take corticosteroids to help them manage their symptoms. In these cases, your doctor can prescribe non-corticosteroid medications, which will allow you to reduce—or eliminate—your use of corticosteroids.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t stop taking corticosteroid medications on your own—suddenly stopping these medications could lead to a drop in cortisol levels—and you need a healthy amount of cortisol. When cortisol levels get too low, it can cause a variety of symptoms, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood pressure, which may be life-threatening.

Instead, your doctor will gradually reduce your dose of corticosteroids to allow your body to resume normal production of cortisol.

If for some reason you cannot stop taking corticosteroids, your doctor will monitor your condition very carefully, frequently checking to make sure your blood glucose levels as well as your bone mass levels are normal. Elevated blood glucose levels and low bone density are signs of Cushing’s syndrome.

Surgery to remove a tumor: If it’s a tumor causing Cushing’s syndrome, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumor. The 2 types of tumors that can cause Cushing’s are pituitary tumors (also called pituitary adenomas) and adrenal tumors. However, other tumors in the body (eg, in the lungs or pancreas) can cause Cushing’s syndrome, too.

Pituitary adenomas are benign (non-cancerous), and most adrenal tumors are as well. However, in rare cases, adrenal tumors can be malignant (cancerous). These tumors are called adrenocortical carcinomas, and it’s important to treat them right away.

Surgery for removing a pituitary tumor is a delicate process. It’s typically performed through the nostril, and your surgeon will use tiny specialized tools. The success, or cure, rate of this procedure is more than 80% when performed by a surgeon with extensive experience. If surgery fails or only produces a temporary cure, surgery can be repeated, often with good results.

If you have surgery to remove an adrenal tumor or tumor in your lungs or pancreas, your surgeon will typically remove it through a standard open surgery (through an incision in your stomach or back) or minimally invasive surgery in which small incisions are made and tiny tools are used.

In some cases of adrenal tumors, surgical removal of the adrenal glands may be necessary.

Radiation therapy for tumors: Sometimes your surgeon can’t remove the entire tumor. If that happens, he or she may recommend radiation therapy—a type of treatment that uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and/or destroy cancer cells.

Radiation therapy may also be prescribed if you’re not a candidate for surgery due to various reasons, such as location or size of the tumor. Radiation therapy for Cushing’s syndrome is typically given in small doses over a period of 6 weeks or by a technique called stereotactic radiosurgery or gamma-knife radiation.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a more precise form of radiation. It targets the tumor without damaging healthy tissue.

With gamma-knife radiation, a large dose of radiation is sent to the tumor, and radiation exposure to the healthy surrounding tissues is minimized. Usually one treatment is needed with this type of radiation.

Medications for Cushing’s syndrome: If surgery and/or radiation aren’t effective, medications can be used to regulate cortisol production in the body. However, for people who have severe Cushing’s syndrome symptoms, sometimes medications are used before surgery and radiation treatment. This can help control excessive cortisol production and reduce risks during surgery.

Examples of medications your doctor may prescribe for Cushing’s syndrome are: aminoglutethimide (eg, Cytadren), ketoconazole (eg, Nizoral), metyrapone (eg, Metopirone), and mitotane (eg, Lysodren). Your doctor will let you know what medication—or combination of medications—is right for you.

You may also need to take medication after surgery to remove a pituitary tumor or adrenal tumor. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a cortisol replacement medication. This medication helps provide the proper amount of cortisol in your body. An example of this type of medication is hydrocortisone (a synthetic form of cortisol).

Experiencing the full effects of the medication can take up to a year or longer. But in most cases and under your doctor’s careful supervision, you can slowly reduce your use of cortisol replacement medications because your body will be able to produce normal cortisol levels again on its own. However, in some cases, people who have surgery to remove a tumor that causes Cushing’s syndrome won’t regain normal adrenal function, and they’ll typically need lifelong replacement therapy.2

Treating Cushing’s Syndrome Conclusion
You may need one treatment or a combination of these treatments to effectively treat your Cushing’s syndrome. Your doctor will let you know what treatments for Cushing’s syndrome you’ll need.

From https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/cushings-syndrome/cushings-syndrome-treatments

Medical Therapies in Cushing’s Syndrome

Chapter

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Health and Disease

pp 165-179

Date: 03 December 2016

Medical Therapies in Cushing’s Syndrome

Abstract

Medical therapy has an important, albeit secondary, role in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. While medications are not currently used as definitive therapy of this condition, they can be very effective in controlling hypercortisolism in patients who fail surgery, those who are not surgical candidates, or those whose tumor location is unknown. Medical therapies can be particularly helpful to control hypercortisolism in patients with Cushing’s disease who underwent radiation therapy and are awaiting its salutary effects.

Currently available treatment options include several steroidogenesis inhibitors (ketoconazole, metyrapone, mitotane, etomidate), which block one or several steps in cortisol synthesis in the adrenal glands, centrally acting agents (cabergoline, pasireotide), which decrease ACTH secretion, and glucocorticoid receptor antagonists, which are represented by a single agent (mifepristone). With the exception of pasireotide and mifepristone, available agents are used “off-label” to manage hypercortisolism. Several other medications are at various stages of development and may offer additional options for the management of this serious condition.

As more potential molecular targets become known and our understanding of the pathogenesis of Cushing’s syndrome improves, it is anticipated that novel, rationally designed medical therapies may emerge. Clinical trials are needed to further investigate the relative risks and benefits of currently available and novel medical therapies and examine the potential role of combination therapy in the management of Cushing’s syndrome.

Keywords

Cabergoline, Etomidate, Ketoconazole, Levoketoconazole, Metyrapone, Mifepristone, Mitotane, Osilodrostat, Pasireotide, Pituitary adenoma

Johns Hopkins Pituitary Patient Day

Join us on Saturday, September 19, 2015

7th Annual Johns Hopkins Pituitary Patient Day
Saturday, September 19, 2015, 9:30 a.m.
Location:
Johns Hopkins Mt. Washington Conference Center
5801 Smith Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21209
map and directions

This is a free event, but seating is limited. Reserve your space now: Please R.S.V.P. by September 9, 2015 by email (preferred) to PituitaryDay@jhmi.edu  or by calling Alison Dimick at 410-955-3921.

Agenda

Time Topic Speaker(s)
9:30 – 9:55 AM Registration
9:55 – 10:00 AM Welcome and acknowledgements Roberto Salvatori, M.D.
10:00 – 10:25 AM Different kinds of pituitary adenomas: non-functioning, acromegaly, Cushing Gary Wand, M.D.
10:25 – 10:50 AM New and old medications for pituitary disease (acromegaly, Cushing, prolactinoma, hypopituitarism) Roberto Salvatori, M.D.
10:50 – 11:10 AM A patient’s story TBA
11:10 – 11:30 AM The eye and the pituitary gland: Why it is important to see the right doctor Dan Gold, D.O.
11:30 – 11:50 AM Surgery for pituitary tumors: Pictures from the operating room in acromegaly, Cushing, non-functioning masses Gary Gallia, M.D., Ph.D.
11:50 – 12:10 PM Radiation therapy for non-functioning ademomas, acromegaly or Cushing: Not so scary after all Lawrence Kleinberg, M.D.
12:10 – 12:30 PM Psychological issues in Cushing, acromegaly and other pituitary disease Tracy Vannorsdall, Ph.D.

 

Myth: It is MY fault that I got Cushing’s…

Myth: “It is MY fault that I got Cushing’s. I did something wrong that caused me to be sick! If I would have just done XYZ, this would not be happening to me!”

myth-busted

Fact: This is a very controversial topic because we don’t like to talk about it. However, many people struggle with this myth. We NEED to dispel this myth my friends! Patients themselves assume responsibility, accountability, and self blame for becoming ill.

To compound all of that, patients are often told by loved ones, family, and sometimes even their churches or other supports that there is something that THEY could be doing or haven’t done that has caused their declining health. “If you would just follow that raw food diet, then all of your symptoms would go away”, “Juicing is the answer! I told you to juice and you wouldn’t get those tumors!”, Sometimes, you are told that if you would just pray harder or have greater faith, then there is no way that you would be sick right now. And my absolute favorite, “you are just too obsessed with being sick and having Cushing’s!  Stop thinking that you have it and it will go away!”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I find value in “positive thinking” and affirming health, wealth, and all kinds of great things. This helps build up strength and personally keeps me motivated, especially during the times that I feel like absolutely throwing in the towel and giving up!

However, I am NOT the reason and YOU are not the reason for this war with this dreadful disease. What many people don’t understand is how tenacious, brave, courageous, and INDOMITABLE you are! Cushing’s patients do not just get surgery and then everything is magically OK.

Many patients have to go through multiple surgeries, sometimes radiation, sometimes years of testing to find the ultimate source of the disease, even after having several organs messed with. Even after patients obtain their “cure”, they are faced with residual and lingering negative effects of the illness, other hormone dysregulation issues, and the anxiety and fear of a recurrence which is based in absolute reality.

There are people, like myself, who are in remission from Cushing’s, BUT we now have Addison’s Disease/Adrenal Insufficiency as a result of removing vital organs in order to save our lives from Cushing’s. So, are we to think that Adrenal Insufficiency is ALSO our faults every time we near death after an adrenal crisis?! NO! NO! NO!

This is NOT your fault! This is NOT your doing! STOP blaming yourself! The best you can do is to FIGHT! Take an empowered stance by saying “NO” to those who won’t listen. Say “NO” to those who project blame onto you and tell you that this is just a “fat person’s excuse to stay fat”. You are not just a “fat person”! YOU are an amazing person who is fighting for your life!

Let me be clear that this blaming is common and we all do it. In my “5 stages of Loss” series on Youtube; I address the “Bargaining” stage of loss, in which we assume responsibility for getting sick or even for getting better.

Everyone should watch this to understand why and how we do this:

Remember, you are a survivor! YOU are Indomitable!!! This is NOT your fault! You WILL overcome!

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