Treating Pituitary Tumors

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your medical care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Nearly all pituitary tumors are adenomas (benign tumors). Treatment of a pituitary adenoma depends on whether or not it makes excess hormones and, if it does, which hormone it makes. Treatment also depends on whether it is a microadenoma (smaller than 1 centimeter across) or a macroadenoma (1 centimeter across or larger).

Treatment for pituitary tumors may include:

Sometimes a combination of treatments is used. For example, surgery may be done to remove some of the tumor, while drugs can be used to relieve symptoms and sometimes shrink the remaining tumor.

Your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. It’s important to take time and think about your choices, weighing the benefits of each option against the possible risks and side effects. It’s also important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “ What should you ask your doctor about pituitary tumors?

If time permits, it’s often a good idea to get a second opinion. Because pituitary tumors are uncommon, not many doctors have much experience with them. Your doctor shouldn’t mind if you want to get a second opinion.

No matter what treatment you decide on, it should be done by doctors who have experience treating pituitary tumors. Pituitary tumors often require care from a team of doctors. Doctors on your team may include:

  • Neurosurgeon: a doctor who uses surgery to treat brain and pituitary tumors
  • Endocrinologist: a doctor who treats diseases in glands that secrete hormones
  • Neurologist: a doctor who diagnoses and treats brain and nervous system diseases
  • Radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancers and other tumors
  • Medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancers and other tumors

Many other specialists might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

The next few sections describe the types of treatments used for pituitary tumors. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches based on the type of tumor (functional tumors, non-functional tumors, and carcinomas).