Non-Functioning Pituitary Adenoma

You're getting checked for something else when your doctor finds a pituitary adenoma. It's a tumor that's growing in your head. A non-functioning pituitary adenoma (NFA) is a kind of benign tumor. It isn't cancer. But that doesn't mean you don't have questions and concerns about your future.

Pituitary adenomas are tumors of the pituitary gland. The gland is just below your brain. Sometimes, these tumors also make hormones. NFA is a pituitary gland tumor that doesn't make hormones. But they can still affect your hormone balance and cause other symptoms.

At UVA Health, our experts have the experience and training to pinpoint your tumor and treat it. If your tumor is also causing hormone problems, we get your hormone levels back to normal.

Non-Functioning Pituitary Adenoma Treatment at UVA Health

At first, small NFAs don't cause symptoms. As they grow, the tumors may push against the pituitary gland, brain, and nerves. They're not usually found until they're large enough to cause:

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems: blurring, loss of peripheral vision, etc

The tumor pressing against your pituitary gland can also lead to hormone problems. Your gland may not work properly. If your pituitary gland isn't working properly, it might not make enough hormones. You may get a condition called hypopituitarism. That can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in your sex drive or infertility

Medications

Treatment with medications can help get your hormones back in balance. But they don't treat the tumor directly.

Surgery

Surgery can remove the tumor. Removing the tumor improves your vision and relieves your headaches. It also could get your pituitary gland back to working normally.

If your pituitary gland doesn't go back to normal, you'll also need medications to help with your hormone balance.

Radiation Therapy

Your tumor may be large enough to wrap around nerves and other structures in your head. That can make it tricky to get to and remove. If that's the case, surgery alone can’t remove the entire tumor. Radiation therapy can shrink the remaining tumor we can't directly remove.

After Treatment

Although these tumors are benign (aren't cancer), you'll still need regular follow up. All types of pituitary adenomas, including nonfunctioning adenomas, can return at any time. That's why you’ll need regular visits with your endocrinologist and neurosurgeon. You'll need to have an MRI scan every year, for at least the first 5 years after surgery. If your tumor doesn’t return, you can have your MRI every two years.