Benign and Malignant Tumors of the Pituitary Gland

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2023:1405:281-297. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-23705-8_10.


Pituitary gland tumors represent approximately 10-15% of all brain tumors and the most common neoplasms of the sellar region. Among them, pituitary adenomas are the widespread accounting for more than 80%. Recently, the fourth edition of the World Health Organization (WHO) 2017 classified pituitary tumors focusing on histopathologic and molecular genetics features and introduced new entities like pituitary blastoma. Most of pituitary gland neoplasms occur sporadically, whereas 5% are related to familial syndromes. They present with several clinical manifestations including signs and symptoms related to excessive hormone secretion by the tumor, signs of hormone deficits by the normal pituitary gland and others commonly secondary to mass effects, and compression of nearby structures such as the optic chiasm; headache and visual disturbance are the most frequent mass effect symptoms. Some tumors, however, are detected as an incidental finding on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans performed for some other reasons. A correct evaluation involves the assessment of hypothalamic-pituitary hormonal function and an ophthalmological examination once a pituitary lesion is encountered. Surgery, more specifically transsphenoidal approach, represents the primary treatment chosen for the majority of pituitary tumors (except for prolactinomas where medical treatment is indicated) allowing for pathologic analysis and complete or partial tumor removal. On the contrary, to date, craniotomy is rarely performed. Sometimes, due to the proximity of critical structures and to tumor's location and characteristics, a successful surgical procedure may often not be achievable due to the high risks related to the procedure itself. Therefore, the treatment of pituitary tumors commonly requires a multimodal approach, including surgery, radiosurgery, radiation therapy, and medical therapy. Aggressive pituitary tumors or carcinomas are associated with poor prognosis due to limited therapeutic options. Furthermore, they tend to recur quickly after initial surgical treatment or present metastasis, may be unresponsive to therapy, and are difficult to manage. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the most common pituitary gland tumors focusing on epidemiology, new pathological features, diagnosis, available treatment, and prognosis.

Keywords: Adenoma; Pituitary tumors; Radiosurgery; Transsphenoidal.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma* / diagnosis
  • Adenoma* / pathology
  • Adenoma* / surgery
  • Hormones
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Neoplasms* / genetics


  • Hormones