What is a pituitary tumor?

A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain behind your nose. It controls many other glands in your body and the amount of hormones that these glands make.

What are the different types of pituitary tumors?

  • Microadenomas are smaller than 1 cm (1/2 inch) in size.
  • Macroadenomas are larger than 1 cm (1/2 inch) in size.
  • Carcinomas are cancerous tumors. These are very rare and can be of different sizes.

Pituitary tumors can be either functioning (that release hormones) or non-functioning (that do not release hormones). Functioning pituitary tumors make too much of one or more hormones usually made by the pituitary gland. These include prolactin, growth hormone, ACTH and thyroid stimulating hormone.

What are common symptoms of pituitary tumors?

Symptoms depend on the size and type of tumor your child has, and the hormone (if any) that the tumor makes. If the tumor makes a certain hormone, the symptoms are related to having too much of that hormone.

Smaller tumors sometimes do not have any symptoms. Larger tumors are more likely to cause headaches, nausea and vision problems. Large tumors may also press against pituitary cells that make other hormones. This causes a deficiency of these hormones.

Possible symptoms, depending on the type of tumor, include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vision loss
  • Changes in periods (in girls)
  • Milky discharge from the breasts
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Poor growth or excessive growth (for height)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Mood changes, like anxiety or depression
  • Constipation
  • Dull and dry skin
  • Hair loss

Did you know...?

The word tumor does not always mean cancer. Most pituitary tumors are benign (non-cancerous).

Rev. 11/2019. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.