Can Pituitary Tumors Be Found Early?

No imaging tests or blood tests are recommended to screen for pituitary tumors in people who are not at increased risk. (Screening is testing for tumors in people without any symptoms.)

For members of families known to be at increased risk because of a genetic syndrome such as multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I (MEN1), doctors often recommend regular blood testing of pituitary hormone levels. These tests increase the odds of finding a tumor early so that it can be removed completely, increasing the chance for a cure.

Rarely, a pituitary tumor is found early because a person has a CT or MRI scan of the brain for an unrelated problem. These tumors are sometimes referred to as incidentalomas, meaning they are found incidentally (by accident).

Functional pituitary adenomas (tumors that make excess hormones like prolactin or ACTH) are often found when they are still small because the excess hormones cause symptoms.

Non-functional pituitary tumors are less likely to be found early because they don’t cause symptoms until they’ve grown large enough to press on normal pituitary cells, nerves, or parts of the brain near the pituitary.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: November 2, 2017

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