Long-term effects on external radiation on the pituitary and thyroid glands

Cancer. 1976 Feb;37(2 Suppl):1152-61. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(197602)37:2+<1152::aid-cncr2820370826>3.0.co;2-t.


Chronic damage following external irradiation of the normal pituitary and thyroid glands, delivered incidentally during radiotherapy of neoplasms of the head and neck may be more common than has been appreciated in the past. A case of a child who developed pituitary dwarfism 5 1/2 years after radiation therapy has been delivered for an embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma of the naso-pharynx is described. A review of similar cases from the literature is presented. Likewise, external irradiation of the normal thyroid gland produces a spectrum of radiation-induced syndromes. Clinical damage to the pituitary and thyroid glands is usually manifested months to years after treatment and is preceded by a long subclinical phase. A careful exclusion of these glands from radiation treatment fields is recommended whenever possible. An early detection of endocrine function abnormalities in patients receiving radiation to these glands is desirable, since appropriate treatment may prevent the deleterious effects of external irradiation of the pituitary and thyroid glands.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Graves Disease / etiology
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / etiology
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Pituitary Irradiation / adverse effects*
  • Radiation Injuries*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Risk
  • Thyroid Diseases / etiology
  • Thyroid Gland / radiation effects*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / etiology
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Thyrotropin
  • Growth Hormone