Prolactinoma (Pituitary Tumor)

  • Medical Author:

    Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

  • Medical Editor: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

How is a prolactinoma diagnosed?

Elevations of the prolactin hormone in the body are detected by a blood test. Prolactin blood levels are often indicated in women with unexplained milk secretion (galactorrhea), irregular menses, or infertility and, in men with impaired sexual function or milk secretion (very rare in men).

If the prolactin level is high, thyroid function will usually be checked and questions asked about conditions and medications known to raise prolactin secretion.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sensitive test for detecting and measuring prolactinomas. MRI scans may be repeated periodically to assess tumor progression and the effects of therapy. Computer tomography (CT scan) also provides an image of the pituitary, but it is less sensitive than the MRI for detection of a prolactinoma.

In addition to assessing the size of the pituitary tumor on the MRI, doctors also look for damage to surrounding tissues.

What follow-up tests are done after a prolactinoma diagnosis?

When a prolactinoma is found, other tests are often done to assess production of additional hormones from the pituitary gland.

Depending on the size of the tumor, the doctor may also request an eye exam to measure visual fields. Remember that the optic nerves run close to the pituitary gland, and any growth of this gland may lead to impingement on the these nerves.

What are the goals of treatment of a prolactinoma?

The goals for treatment of a prolactinoma are to:

  • return prolactin secretion to normal,
  • reduce tumor size,
  • correct any vision abnormalities, and
  • restore the normal function of the pituitary gland.

If the tumor is very large, only partial achievement of these goals may be possible.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2016

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