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Are Pituitary Tumors Staged?

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For most types of cancer, staging is the process used to determine if and how far the cancer has spread. This is done to help guide treatment. But pituitary tumors are nearly always benign (not cancer) and do not spread, so there is no staging system for them. Pituitary carcinoma (cancer) is too rare for a staging system to have been developed.

The most useful information for guiding the treatment of a pituitary adenoma is:

  • Whether it is a microadenoma (smaller than 1 centimeter across) or a macroadenoma (1 centimeter across or larger). A centimeter is less than 1/2 an inch.
  • Whether it has grown into nearby structures (such as bones of the skull)
  • Whether it is causing symptoms such as vision changes, headaches, or problems related to changes in hormone levels
  • Whether it is functional (making enough excess hormones to cause symptoms) or non-functional
  • If it is functional, which hormone(s) it is making

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 editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Dorsey JF, Salinas RD, Dang M, et al. Chapter 63: Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier: 2020.

Molitch ME. Diagnosis and treatment of pituitary adenomas: A review. JAMA. 2017;317(5):516-524.

National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query (PDQ). Pituitary Tumors Treatment. 2020. Accessed at on July 21, 2022.

Last Revised: October 10, 2022

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