Staging, Remission and the chance of recurrence of pituitary tumor

Understanding your risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the tumor returns.

Updated: September 29, 2019

Pituitary tumors are often called pituitary adenomas cause symptoms when they are functional. Because of the excessive hormones produced by functional tumors they can cause symptoms whereas non-functional tumors often become large (macroadenomas) before they are noticed. This is because these tumors do not cause symptoms until they press on nearby nerves, parts of the brain, or other parts of the pituitary.
Non-functional adenomas that cause no symptoms are sometimes found when an MRI or CT scan done for other reasons. They are often just watched closely without needing treatment as long as they are not causing problems. Most of the time, a functional adenoma makes too much of a single pituitary hormone and the symptoms from these adenomas are based on which hormone they make. Therefore these tumors can be found while they are still fairly small (microadenomas).

Staging of pituitary tumor:

Staging is the process of determining how far a cancer has spread. This will help in determining the treatment option for pituitary tumor.
Staging can be done by analyzing the below points:

  • Whether it is a microadenoma (smaller than 1 centimeter across) or macroadenoma (1 centimeter across or larger)
  • Whether it has grown into nearby structures, such as bones of the skull
  • Whether it is functional which is making excess hormones or non-functional
  • Which hormone it releases, if it is functional
  • Whether it is causing symptoms such as vision changes

Aggressive pituitary tumor:

A metastatic tumor is one in which the tumor spreads to another part in the body from where it has started. In this case , it is a good idea to talk with an experienced doctors along with a second opinion before starting treatment, so you are comfortable with your chosen treatment plan. Clinical trials might be an option for it also. If a tumor grows quickly in the pituitary gland and spreads into nearby structures, it is called a locally invasive tumor. Both metastatic and locally invasive tumors can be aggressive, growing and spreading quickly. These are more likely to treat with radiation therapy. Most of the time your treatment plan may include a combination of surgery and radiation therapy. Palliative care will also be important to help relieve symptoms and side effects. Diagnosis of an aggressive pituitary gland tumor is very stressful and difficult to bear for most patients.

Remission and the chance of recurrence:

When the tumor cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms after the treatment it can be called as a remission. A remission may be temporary or permanent. There is always possibility that the tumor will come back.
Understanding your risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the tumor returns. Therefore it is important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the tumor returning even if there is no evidence or symptoms of the disease.
If the tumor does return after the original treatment, it is called a recurrent tumor. It may come back in the same place known as a local recurrence. Nearby or regional recurrence and in another place or distant recurrence may also be the possibilities, which is rare. The tumor may need to be staged again called re-staging if there is a recurrence. Testing will begin again to diagnose the cause of recurrence and the exact location has to be find out. Different treatment options will be recommended by your doctor which include as surgery and radiation therapy. However, they may be used in a different combination or given at a different pace. Clinical trials that are studying new ways to treat this type of recurrent tumor are also suggested.
Palliative care will be important for relieving symptoms and side effects despite the type of treatment.

Limitations of Treatment:

Recovery from a tumor is not always possible. The disease may be called advanced or terminal if the tumor cannot be cured or controlled.This diagnosis is stressful, and an advanced tumor is difficult to discuss. In this stage it is important to make sure a person is physically comfortable and free from pain.
Patients who have an advanced tumor and who are expected to live less than 6 months are advised to consider a type of palliative care called hospice care. Hospice care is designed to provide the best possible quality of life for people who are near the end of life. Hospice care can be done at home, a special hospice center, or other health care locations.


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