Does a brain tumor affect hormonal secretion

Pituitary tumor - a question of hormones

Some of these tumors release hormones, while others do not actively intervene in this metabolism. Physicians therefore differentiate between hormone-producing and hormone-inactive pituitary tumors: Symptoms and treatment often differ fundamentally.

Symptoms

Hormone producing tumor

A pituitary tumor arises from a degenerate cell in the pituitary gland. If this cell previously produced hormones, so does the tumor. It releases these messenger substances in a completely uncontrolled manner and thus unbalances the body's hormonal balance:

  • Often a pituitary tumor releases the hormone Prolactin out. In women, this stimulates the flow of milk and inhibits ovulation: an irregular cycle occurs.
  • In men, prolactin limits, among other things, sexual desire and fertility. It also reduces body hair, which leads to a thin beard growth, for example.
  • The tumor causes an excess of growth hormone STH, the symptoms are strongly age-dependent: While children grow unusually fast under this influence, the hormone only enlarges individual parts of the body in adults - mostly hands, feet, nose, ears and chin.
  • Some pituitary tumors produce the hormone ACTH. This stimulates the adrenal glands to release more cortisol. In the long run, this leads to weight gain, muscle weakness and decreased bone density. In addition, diseases such as diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure can result from a permanent excess of cortisol.

Hormone inactive tumor

This is often diagnosed purely by chance - due to its slow growth, it usually does not cause any symptoms for a long time. Only with increasing size does the tumor trigger symptoms such as headaches or nausea. In addition, it often puts pressure on the optic nerve: Let your doctor clarify any weak eyesight or visual field failure.

If the pituitary gland itself becomes narrowed, it may no longer be able to make some hormones. The consequences of this so-called pituitary insufficiency are extremely diverse: These include surprising weight loss or gain, fatigue, weakness, digestive problems and depressive moods. Pale skin, a lack of libido and hypoglycaemia can also be indications of a pituitary tumor. If you have such unspecific complaints, contact your doctor and have them clarified.

diagnosis

The first indications of a pituitary tumor are provided by a detailed discussion with your doctor. He asks about your specific complaints and your general state of health. This will be followed by a physical exam to check for possible causes of your symptoms. For example, if you have visual field disorders, he will perform a clinical eye test with you.

Exact determination

If the suspicion is confirmed, an endocrinologist will analyze your blood samples and examine the tumor. Imaging procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRT) or computed tomography (CT) show the exact position and extent of the tumor. On the basis of the results, the endocrinologist, as a specialist in hormones, creates an individual treatment plan for you and, if necessary, consults a brain surgeon.

treatment

Small pituitary tumors are often incidental findings that usually do not cause any symptoms. Experts therefore recommend the "wait and scan" strategy in this case: the tumor is first observed using regular MRI and hormone tests.

If a hormonally active tumor releases too much prolactin, drug therapy can help. The production of this hormone is slowed down by so-called dopamine agonists and the natural balance can be leveled out again.

Surgical removal of the tumor can be useful if it damages surrounding brain structures due to its increasing size or if it cannot be treated with medication. The aim of this procedure is to remove the tumor as completely as possible. For this purpose, brain surgeons use surgical microscopes and endoscopes and usually work with a minimally invasive approach through the nose.

If the tumor cannot be operated on, radiation therapy is an option: precisely applied ionizing radiation inhibits or stops the growth of the tumor. Your doctor may recommend this treatment as a supplement to an operation.

Follow-up care means prevention

After the treatment has been completed, it is essential that you attend all of the follow-up appointments and have the success of the therapy checked regularly. In this way, your doctor can react to any changes at an early stage - or give the all-clear.