Even if a tumor is not cancerous, it can still cause difficulty, if its growth is unchecked. Particularly is this true if a pituitary tumor (also known as a pituitary adenoma or prolactinoma) is left untouched by chemical therapy or appropriate surgical procedures. One problem can become two problems. Consider my story – one day it could be your story.
I was diagnosed in May of 2009 with a prolactinoma. A simple blood test revealed my prolactin level to be 116. This resulted in my being scheduled for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to verify the doctor’s tentative diagnosis (For an in-depth discussion of what led to discovery and diagnosis, see Pituitary Tumor: Bromocriptine Reverses Early Symptoms of Excess Prolactin). A prolactinoma is an almost always benign tumor of the pituitary which causes prolactin – a hormone most often associated with milk production – to secrete in excess.
When Did the Tumor First Appear?
It was believed the adenoma had only been growing a few months, but later insights revealed it may actually have been growing for a considerable time. Considerably previously, perhaps 2007, the author had been examined at the University of Virginia breast clinic for possible breast cancer. Happily, though calcareous deposits were present, there were no indications of cancer.Returning to events in 2009, during my second appointment (following confirmation by MRI) on June 10, 2009, my physician indicated the calcareous deposits may have been an early indicator of my pituitary abnormality.
One Bad Turn Deserves Another
Although non-cancerous, the size of the anterior, or frontal, lobe of my pituitary was increased, pressuring surrounding tissues. Quite often, the optic nerve is affected. Initially, it was thought such was not the case for me. Later, that notion was proven false when I reported a doubling in my vision. I was informed I was in danger of facing blindness if I did not undergo surgery post haste. Rather, the doctor noted a slightly depressed thyroxine (thyroid hormone) level. One function of the pituitary was affecting another function of the pituitary (both being, however, in the anterior lobe of the pituitary).
Since the thyroid (in the throat region) produces thyroxine (also called T4), not the pituitary, how could the pituitary be implicated? The thyroid produces thyroxine after receiving alert to do so from the pituitary’s production of TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone – in effect a trigger hormone. The pituitary triggers the thyroid into action!
In my case, the thyroid hormone seemed relatively slight. Later evidence, after surgery and in the care of a pituitary specialist, it was clear my body had switched into producing an excess of growth hormone – I now suffered from acromegaly. Fortunately, I now take a small pill on alternate days of the week. The medication I was prescribed was cabergoline. Although it does the job well, it is not altogether painless. The pills sell for approximately $10 each!
The fact is, there are two major problems of adenoma: 1) how it affects hormone production, and 2) how by its tissue growth and the process of crowding out, it can affect other functions of the brain. The situation in my case might not have been detected, if I had not told him all the symptoms I was undergoing – even the embarrassing ones. If I have one piece of advice based on my experience, it is to be sure to include all the symptoms you may be experiencing, no matter how slight – no matter how embarrassing.
1 For in-depth discussion of how my adenoma affected my vision, see the article Diagnosis: Sixth Nerve (Abducens Nerve) Palsy – Surgery!