Pituitary Tumors

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Diagnosing and Treating a Pituitary Tumor

If you have experienced any neurological symptoms that concern you, tell your doctor about them. The doctor will probably perform a basic neurological exam, including:

  • reflexes
  • muscle strength
  • eye movement
  • coordination
  • alertness


If your doctor finds any cause for concern, you will probably have some imaging tests done to look for clues to the source of the symptoms. Those imaging tests typically include:

X-rays can produce images of bones and organs and provide a quick and noninvasive glimpse into the body.

Blood and urine tests, sometimes given more than once at different times of the day, can reveal abnormalities in hormone levels that suggest a pituitary tumor.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans produce detailed images of the brain and spine and allow doctors to detect the presence of a tumor. They are much more detailed than X-rays. Both of these tests are noninvasive, but they do require time in a scanner to produce tiny slices of images that are then combined into three-dimensional pictures. Sometimes the patient will need a special contrast agent in advance to increase the visibility of any abnormality found. Some pituitary tumors are too small to show up on these scans, so the blood and urine tests are considered the gold standard for diagnosing a pituitary tumor.

Treatment Options
Once the tumor has been identified, your treatment plan may include:

Observation: Some pituitary tumors are discovered incidentally, meaning that the tumor is seen on a scan that’s done for some other reason, such as after an injury or accident.  If the tumor is not causing any symptoms, it may not require any treatment at all — but it should still be evaluated by an expert in pituitary tumors to ensure an accurate diagnosis and a sound treatment plan.

Surgery:  Advanced endoscopic techniques allow expert surgeons to remove pituitary tumors through the nose, with no incisions and no scarring. See Surgery for Pituitary Tumors.

Stereotactic radiosurgery: Commonly referred to as CyberKnife and Gamma Knife, stereotactic radiosurgery is not traditional surgery at all. This procedure uses highly focused beam of radiation to target tumor cells while avoiding healthy brain tissue. See more about our Stereotactic Radiosurgery Program.

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Reviewed by: Theodore Schwartz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: January 2015