Your pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland that sits at the base of your brain and controls most of the hormones in your body. Every year in the United States, approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed with pituitary tumors. Although most of these tumors aren’t cancerous, they can cause health problems. At Advanced Brain & Spine, board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Itay Melamed offers surgical treatment options for patients with pituitary tumors. If you’re in the Denver area, call or book your appointment online at one of the practice’s convenient locations in Centennial or Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
From where it sits at the base of your skull, the pituitary gland provides the key link between your brain and your endocrine system, or the various glands throughout your body that secrete and regulate hormones. Sometimes referred to as the “master control” gland, the pituitary makes its own hormones as well as control levels of the hormones produced by your other endocrine glands.
Pituitary tumors are actually some of the most common tumors that affect the brain. Although roughly 10,000 pituitary tumors are diagnosed each year, most of these are benign adenomas, meaning they’re not cancerous.
Researchers believe that the actual number of pituitary tumors is far higher than the number that is found; it’s estimated that as many as one in four people has a benign pituitary adenoma and doesn’t know about it.
Your pituitary gland has two parts: A larger anterior section, and a smaller posterior section. The anterior part, which is the region that’s responsible for hormone secretion, is where most pituitary tumors occur.
Most pituitary tumors aren’t symptomatic and don’t require treatment. Instead, these tumors can be observed with serial imaging studies such as an MRI.
Although it’s rare, benign pituitary tumors can cause problems. Sometimes the problem occurs because the tumor pushes on critical nearby structures, such as the optic nerve.
Other times, the tumor consists of cells that actually secret hormones of their own. These secreting tumors can be quite problematic, as they disturb the natural balance of hormones in the body. For this reason, pituitary tumors that interfere with hormone function or balance should be treated more aggressively.
Even though there’s a wide variety of available medications that help control pituitary tumors safely and effectively, the only way to completely cure the problem is by having the tumor surgically removed.
Dr. Melamed uses an endoscopic endonasal surgical approach to address the majority of the pituitary tumors he treats. The addition of the endoscope also allows better and wider visualization of the critical structures along the way.
This technique allows Dr. Melamed to take a direct approach to the tumor without having to manipulate any of the surrounding tissues. It also allows him to remove tumors completely, to the point where certain tumors can be actually cured; this level of treatment can’t be achieved with other surgical methods.
Having endoscopic endonasal surgery to treat a pituitary tumor also means you won’t be left with a visible incision or scar and you’re more likely to experience a quicker recovery.