When an individual experiences the development of abnormal growth in their pituitary gland, it is referred to as a pituitary tumor. Pituitary gland tumors may be malignant and spread around the body, or they may be noncancerous. While most benign growths in the body do not cause problems when they are small in size, that is not the case with many types of pituitary tumors. The endocrine system in the body contains numerous glands that communicate and command each other to take action through the release of hormones.
A tumor that develops in the pituitary gland can cause the gland to produce an excessive amount of one or more hormones, which then causes other glands around the body to overproduce hormones. Other types of pituitary tumors can destroy the cells in the pituitary gland that produce one or more hormones, resulting in a hormone deficiency.
Nonfunctional adenomas or null cell adenomas are terms used to describe an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland that is benign but may grow to a large size. A nonfunctional adenoma is a tumor that does not produce any form of excessive hormones in an affected individual's blood. Because this type of pituitary tumor does not make its presence known until it has become large and began to press on other structures in the brain, it can be difficult to diagnose before it causes significant damage to the pituitary gland.
The first symptoms that typically present in patients who develop a nonfunctional adenoma include headaches, sexual function loss, fatigue, menstrual period loss, and weight loss. Nonfunctional adenomas are diagnosed with the use of MRI scans and blood tests. An endocrinologist can determine if and to what extent a patient's nonfunctional adenoma is affecting the hormone levels in the body. Out of all cases of pituitary adenomas, around fifteen percent are diagnosed as nonfunctional adenomas. For every 100,000 individuals, between seven and nine of them will be diagnosed with a nonfunctional pituitary adenoma.