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Gamma Knife Perfexion: pituitary tumor Treatment

What is a pituitary tumor?

Your pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ located in the center of your brain. This gland is very important because it makes or controls the hormones that regulate many functions of your body, such as growth and reproduction. A growth of abnormal cells forming in the pituitary gland is called a pituitary tumor.

Most pituitary tumors are benign, or non-cancerous. Also called pituitary adenomas, they are slow growing and do not spread to other parts of the body. Pituitary tumors are more common in older adults. Their cause is unknown, but heredity appears to be a factor in some cases.

What can happen if you have a pituitary tumor?

Numerous conditions that may occur when a pituitary tumor is present, including:

  • Infertility
  • Hyperthyroidism, when the body produces too much thyroid hormone
  • Acromegaly, when the body produces too much growth hormone
  • Cushing's syndrome, when the body produces too much cortisol, known as the "stress hormone"
  • Progressive loss of hormones
  • Vision loss, typically starting in the periphery ("Tunnel Vision")

If you have a pituitary tumor, it may be necessary for you to undergo pituitary tumor treatment to remove or control growth of the tumor. Options may include pituitary tumor surgery or radiosurgery, radiation therapy, drug therapy or chemotherapy. You may also need to take medication to correct hormone production.

Non-functioning and functioning pituitary tumors

Pituitary tumors are classified as either non-functioning or functioning. Functioning pituitary tumors are more common in younger patients. They tend to make more hormones than the amount produced by a healthy pituitary gland. Excess amounts of one or more hormones in the body can cause certain symptoms, depending on the type of hormone. Or, growth of the tumor itself can cause symptoms.

A non-functioning pituitary tumor does not make hormones. However, the tumor may put pressure on or damage the pituitary gland. In that case, you may experience certain symptoms or your pituitary gland may slow or stop production of certain hormones. When these tumors get large enough, they put pressure on the nerves that go to the eyes.

What are the symptoms of a pituitary tumor?

Some pituitary tumors do not cause any symptoms. Others may cause one or more of the following symptoms from pressure on the pituitary gland or surrounding tissues, including important nerves and blood vessels:

  • Headache
  • Vision loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Inability to tolerate colder temperatures
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Runny nose
  • Seizures
  • Unintended weight loss or gain
  • Symptoms of pituitary hormone deficiency
  • Body hair loss
  • Loss of libido or other sexual dysfunction

These symptoms may also be caused by other disorders.

To detect and diagnose a pituitary tumor, doctors usually prescribe blood and urine tests and imaging studies, such as a CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

What are the options for pituitary tumor treatment?

Currently accepted pituitary tumor treatments include any one or a combination of the following:

  • Radiosurgery, such as Gamma Knife radiosurgery
  • Pituitary tumor surgery, including minimally invasive endoscopic surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Drug therapy
  • Chemotherapy, in the case of a cancerous pituitary tumor

Why you should consider Gamma Knife pituitary tumor radiosurgery.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an excellent alternative to standard radiotherapy for residual tumors that may remain after conventional surgery or that have recurred. With Gamma Knife radiosurgery, tumor growth can be controlled over the long term 95% of the time. With functioning tumors, 50% to 80% of excess hormones can be controlled. The risk of adversely affecting the pituitary gland's ability to function is also significantly reduced.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is non-invasive and the Gamma Knife is not a knife. Because no incision is required, Gamma Knife radiosurgery surgery can be a safer option than conventional surgery. Rather than removing the tumor, Gamma Knife radiosurgery damages the cells so they are unable to reproduce, and the mass stops growing. The revolutionary technology uses precisely focused, beams of radiation to stop the tumor's growth without harming other nearby tissue. This is especially important when a tumor is located in inaccessible area or near critically important areas of the brain.

Minimally invasive Gamma Knife radiosurgery is nearly painless and has no risk of infection compared to conventional surgery. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a good option for high-risk patients with conditions like diabetes or hypertension. Most patients are able to return home on the day of treatment and resume normal activities the next day.

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Leksell Gamma Knife® PERFEXION™

The ultimate tool for stereotactic radiosurgery is now at Washington Hospital.

  • A revolutionary alternative to traditional surgery and conventional radiosurgery - highly effective in treating conditions of the brain and head areas
  • Performed by a world renowned team of physicians and other medical experts
  • Fast, precise and comfortable - PERFEXION™ delivers on the promise of minimally invasive treatment.

Our Medical Directors

Sandeep Kunwar, M.D., Neurosurgeon

Sandeep Kunwar, M.D., Neurosurgeon

Co-Medical Director, Gamma Knife Program

Board certified in neurosurgery and renowned for his work in minimally invasive neurosurgery, Dr. Kunwar played an instrumental role in the evolution of the Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute where he now serves as medical director for three of the Institute's programs.

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David Larson, M.D., Ph.D, Radiation Oncologist

David Larson, M.D., Ph.D, Radiation Oncologist

Co-Medical Director, Gamma Knife Program

Board certified in therapeutic radiology and recognized nationally and internationally for his work in stereotactic radiosurgery for the treatment of brain tumors, Dr. Larson serves as co-medical director of the Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute's Gamma Knife® Program.

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About Washington hospital

Washington Hospital, located in Fremont, California, was the first hospital in the United States to treat patients using the new Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion™, a revolutionary alternative to traditional open-brain surgery and/or daily radiation treatments, which are administered from four to six weeks. The Gamma Knife Perfexion instead uses focused doses of radiation without making a single incision to treat malignant and benign brain tumors in a matter of hours.

Washington Hospital's Gamma Knife® Program is led by one of the most accomplished teams of specialized physicians, physicists and nurses. Medical Directors neurosurgeon Sandeep Kunwar, MD, and radiation oncologist David Larson, MD, PhD, are both nationally and internationally recognized for their expertise, innovation and leadership in the field of Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Both board certified physicians, together they have more than 23 years of experience performing thousands of successful procedures.

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