Treating a pituitary condition
Referral to an endocrinologist
If your GP suspects a pituitary problem, he/she should refer you to an endocrinologist for further investigations. It is very important and we strongly recommend that you be referred to an endocrinologist who specialises in pituitary conditions.
At your first appointment with an endocrinologist, it is usual for the following things to happen:
- A full medical history will be taken - lots of general health questions e.g., when you experienced your symptoms, how they felt, and your family history of general health.
- You will probably be given a physical examination - blood pressure, pulse, chest and heart checked. The doctor will look into the back of your eyes and may check your ‘fields of vision’ (how far you can see to each side without moving the eye).
- Blood tests are taken to test relevant hormone levels (this is quick and quite painless). The results usually take 2-3 weeks, a copy of these should be given to your GP for his files.
- The endocrinologist may want you to have a scan of the pituitary gland using an MRI or CT scanner - the waiting list can be more than several weeks/months in some hospitals. Having a scan is painless and will not harm you. An MRI offers a much clearer picture and involves being in a more confined space than a CT scanner. If you are concerned about this or suffer from claustrophobia, please let your GP know as he/she can offer a relaxant which does help.
- You can take along your partner, relative or friend with you to this, (and any future) appointments. It is also a good idea to jot down (and take with you) notes of symptoms you wish to discuss in case you forget during the consultation.
Almost all pituitary tumours are benign - they are not cancer - however, many still require treatment. It is highly unlikely that any visual problems will deteriorate further, and it is more likely for your sight to improve following treatment.
Treatment if a pituitary condition is diagnosed
Once you have had your blood test results, and your scan (if needed) and returned to see the endocrinologist, your treatment (if any required) will be started. This may include any of the following:
Sometimes medication and/or replacement hormones are given, and the endocrinologist will monitor your levels with regular blood tests.
The endocrinologist works in conjunction with a neurosurgeon (usually based within the same hospital or nearby). The neurosurgeon will see you to discuss the type of surgery he will perform, how long he expects you to be in hospital and recuperation period afterwards. You will be able to discuss any problems or fears you have at this time.
This may be given instead of, or following surgery, or later if it is necessary. This is procedure carried out at a specialist centre (nearest to your home) and can be used to complement surgery. Having radiotherapy does not mean that your pituitary tumour is malignant (or cancerous).