There is no such thing as a routine pituitary tumor. Every patient’s pituitary tumor is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving each person’s specific cancer.

At the OSUCCC – James, our pituitary tumor specialists are world-renowned cancer experts who focus solely on pituitary tumors and who reach across medical disciplines (oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pharmacists, endocrinologists, otolaryngologists, and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are often available for their treatment and care.

Facts About Pituitary Tumors

Pituitary tumors begin in the cells of the pituitary gland — a pea-sized organ located in the bottom center of the brain, just above the back of the nose.

The pituitary gland makes hormones that control important functions in the body including growth, reproduction and blood pressure. This gland also controls hormones made by other glands in the body. For these reasons, the pituitary is sometimes referred to as the master endocrine gland.

About 10,000 people are diagnosed with pituitary gland tumors in the United States each year. Most of these tumors are benign, or noncancerous, and can occur at any age.

Pituitary tumors are divided into the following three groups:

Benign Pituitary Adenomas

This type of tumor is not cancerous, grows very slowly and does not spread to other parts of the body. Most pituitary tumors are of this type.

Invasive Pituitary Adenomas

This type of tumor is not cancerous but may spread to skull bones or the sinus cavities.

Pituitary Carcinomas

This type of tumor is cancerous (malignant). It can spread to the brain and spinal cord or to other parts of the central nervous system. This is a rare type of tumor.

Pituitary tumors may be either nonfunctioning or functioning. Nonfunctioning pituitary tumors do not make hormones. Functioning pituitary tumors overproduce one or more hormones. These extra hormones may cause certain symptoms of disease. Most pituitary tumors are functioning.

Hormones made by the pituitary gland include:


This important hormone signals a woman’s breast to produce milk during and after pregnancy.

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH)

This hormone stimulates the adrenal glands to produce another type of hormone called cortisol. Cortisol helps control the use of sugar, protein and fats in the body. Cortisol also plays a role in how people react to stress, causing the “fight or flight” response.

Growth Hormone (Somatotropin)

This hormone helps control body growth and how the body uses sugar and fat.

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone Thyrotropin

This hormone signals the thyroid gland to make other hormones that control growth, body temperature and heart rate.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) & Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

These are two of the primary sex hormones, signaling sperm production in men and women’s ovaries to release eggs.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Pituitary Brain Anatomy

Pituitary Tumor Symptoms

If you have a benign type of pituitary tumor that has just formed, or is early in its progress, it may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they most often cause changes in vision and other physical changes caused by an overproduction of certain hormones.

Symptoms of a Nonfunctioning Pituitary Tumor

Nonfunctioning pituitary tumors do not make hormones. Symptoms are caused by the tumor pressing on the pituitary gland, causing it to not make one or more of the hormones it normally makes. Too little of certain hormones can affect how the affected gland or organ functions. The following symptoms may occur in a nonfunctioning pituitary tumor:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Loss of body hair
  • In women, less frequent or no menstrual periods or no milk from the breasts
  • In men, loss of facial hair, growth of breast tissue and impotence
  • In women and men, reduced sex drive
  • In children, slowed growth and sexual development

Most of the tumors that make LH and FSH do not make enough extra hormones to cause symptoms. These tumors are considered to be nonfunctioning tumors.

Symptoms of a Functioning Pituitary Tumor

A functioning pituitary tumor produces hormones. The symptoms that occur depend on what type and how much of the extra hormones are being produced.

Too much prolactin may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Less frequent or no menstrual periods or menstrual periods with a very light flow
  • Trouble becoming pregnant or an inability to become pregnant
  • Impotence in men
  • Lower sex drive
  • Flow of breast milk in a woman who is not pregnant or breast-feeding

Too much ACTH may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Weight gain in the face, neck and trunk of the body, and thin arms and legs
  • A lump of fat on the back of the neck
  • Thin skin that may have purple or pink stretch marks on the chest or abdomen
  • Easy bruising
  • Growth of fine hair on the face, upper back or arms
  • Bones that break easily
  • Anxiety, irritability and depression

Too much growth hormone may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • In adults, acromegaly (growth of the bones in the face, hands and feet); in children, the whole body may grow much taller and larger than normal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
  • Snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Joint pain
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Dysmorphophobia (extreme dislike of or concern about one or more parts of the body)

Too much thyroid-stimulating hormone may cause:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Sweating

Other general signs and symptoms of pituitary tumors:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Runny nose; this is caused by leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord into the nose

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have pituitary tumors. But if you have symptoms you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms have continued for longer than a few weeks.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you have received a pituitary tumor diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a pituitary tumor specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment

Make an Appointment


Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Cancer Type) or choose a Principle Investigator


Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Location) or choose a Cancer Type


Find a Location

Search by Building Name, Doctor Name, or ZIP code

The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

What to Expect at The James

Patient and Visitor's Guide

Get information about your stay, amenities, visitor information and more.

Your First Appointment

Know what to bring, how to prepare and what to expect at your first appointment.

Patient Education

Read from a library of resources designed by experts to help you answer questions and make informed decisions.

Contact Us