The pituitary is a small gland attached to the base of the brain (behind the nose) in an area called the pituitary fossa or sella turcica. The pituitary is often called the "master gland" because it controls the secretion of hormones. A normal pituitary gland weighs less than one gram, and is about the size and shape of a kidney bean. The function of the pituitary can be compared to a household thermostat. The thermostat constantly measures the temperature in the house and sends signals to the heater to turn it on or off to maintain a steady, comfortable temperature. The pituitary gland constantly monitors body functions and sends signals to remote organs and glands to control their function and maintain the appropriate environment. The ideal "thermostat" setting depends on many factors such as level of activity, gender, body composition, etc.
The pituitary is responsible for controlling and coordinating the following:
- Growth and development
- The function of various body organs (i.e. kidneys, breasts and uterus)
- The function of other glands (i.e. thyroid, gonads, and adrenal glands)
Treatment – surgical
The transsphenoidal approach involves making an incision in the upper gum line or nasal cavity and accessing the tumor through the base of the skull. This approach is usually the procedure of choice because it is less invasive, has fewer side effects, and patients generally recover more quickly. Patients can often leave the hospital as early as two to four days after surgery.
The transcranial approach through the upper part of the skull is used for larger tumors that cannot be safely removed through the transsphenoidal approach.
Endonasal Endoscopic surgery is a newer, minimally invasive approach which allows neurosurgeons to utilize a tiny endoscope with a camera on the end. A tiny endoscope inserted through the nostril is placed in front of the tumor in the sphenoid sinus, and the tumor is removed with specially designed surgical tools. Postoperative discomfort is usually minimal. Endoscopic brain surgery is another surgical option for removing pituitary adenomas, but can only be utilized in certain cases.