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Pituitary carcinomas are very rare tumors that usually have already spread to other parts of the body by the time they're found. Because so few people have had this type of cancer, it's been difficult to learn much about it, so it can be hard to diagnose and treat. Whenever possible, a team of medical experts should discuss the cancer before deciding on which tests and treatment options might be best.
Surgery is usually the first treatment if it can be done. Surgery might be done to remove tumors in other parts of the body as well. Radiation therapy might also be an option, either after surgery or for people who can’t have surgery for some reason. These treatments may help prevent or relieve symptoms by removing the tumor, shrinking it, or slowing its growth. If the tumor isn’t removed completely or if it starts to grow again, a second surgery may be an option.
For functional pituitary carcinomas (those that make excess hormones), the same medicines used to treat pituitary adenomas can be tried, but higher doses or combinations of drugs may be needed.
Chemotherapy and newer targeted therapy drugs may be other options in some cases. The chemo drug temozolomide is often the first drug tried, sometimes along with radiation therapy to the tumor. If this doesn't work, other chemo drugs might be options, although it’s not clear how effective they might be.
Because pituitary carcinoma affects so few people, it's been hard to study which treatments might be most effective. Taking part in a clinical trial of a new treatment may be a good option.
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.
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Hansen TM, Batra S, Lim M, et al. Invasive adenoma and pituitary carcinoma: a SEER database analysis. Neurosurg Rev. 2014;37(2):279-285; discussion 285-286.
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Last Revised: October 10, 2022