Having to deal with any kind of abnormal growth in your brain can be a difficult and exhausting ordeal to say the least, and the horrible words 'brain tumour' send a chill down the spines of most of us. However, even if a brain tumour doesn't grow in an especially fragile part of the brain, and does not become cancerous, they will still have to be dealt with sooner rather than later, as their growth can deal serious damage to surround tissues.
Pituitary adenomas are one of the most common brain tumours seen by doctors and surgeons, and while they are very rarely cancerous, they must be treated before they can cause serious problems.
What are pituitary adenomas?
The pituitary gland is a very small gland located in the base of the brain, but it is far more important than its diminutive size would suggest. This tiny gland releases hormones that control a wide variety of bodily processes, from growth and blood pressure to sexual potency and pain suppression.
A pituitary adenoma occurs when some of the cells that make up the pituitary gland undergo improper division as they reproduce, causing them to multiply out of control and form non-functioning masses and tumours around the functioning gland cells. Compared to other forms of aggressive brain tumour, pituitary adenomas are generally more benign, and only a tiny proportion of adenomas ever become cancerous, but even non-malignant adenomas can cause problems with your pituitary gland that require immediate attention.
How are pituitary adenomas treated?
Traditionally, any kind of brain surgery was seen as a significant risk that should only be turned to treat severe brain disorders, such as large tumours, meningitis and other potentially lethal conditions. Consequently, many pituitary adenomas that do not pose an immediate risk to the sufferer are treated conservatively, using oral medications and steroid injections that suppress the mutated cells that make up the tumour.
These medications can be effective for treating less aggressive adenomas; however, they can also cause a range of unpleasant side effects (particularly if you require long-term steroid treatments) and are geared more towards preventing the tumour's growth than effecting its removal. Radiation therapy is another non-invasive option, but produces even more unwelcome side effects and is both time-consuming and expensive.
Consequently, more and more patients suffering from pituitary adenomas are turning to surgery sooner rather than later, and modern, minimally invasive surgical techniques conducted by specialist neurosurgeons mean this option can make as much sense for treating benign adenomas as their rarer, malignant brethren.
For more information on brain surgery, contact a specialist in your area.
How can surgery treat and remove my benign pituitary adenoma?
Because the pituitary gland is located towards the bottom of the brain, modern surgeons no longer need to remove sections of your skull to access a pituitary adenoma; instead, they access the mutated gland via smaller incisions cut into the nasal cavity, removing a small, relatively thin section of bone behind the nostrils that can be replaced with relative ease once surgery is complete. This approach speeds healing times enormously and results in significantly lower levels of post-operative pain.
Once the tumour has been accessed, it can be removed without widening the incision in your skull by dissecting the tumour and removing it in sections. This approach minimises the chances of accidental damage being dealt to surrounding regions of the skull, and prevents problems with vision and memory that were common after less sophisticated surgical procedures.