Prolactinoma - females; Adenoma - secreting; Prolactin-secreting adenoma of the pituitary
A prolactinoma is a noncancerous pituitary tumor that produces a hormone called prolactin. This results in too much prolactin in the blood.
Prolactin is a hormone that triggers the breasts to produce milk (lactation).
Prolactinoma is the most common type of pituitary tumor (adenoma). It makes up at least 30% of all pituitary adenomas. Most pituitary tumors are noncancerous (benign). Prolactinoma may occur as part of a hereditary disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1)
Prolactinomas occur most commonly in people under age 40. They are about five times more common in women than men, but are rare in children.
At least half of all prolactinomas are very small (less than 1 cm or 3/8 of an inch in diameter). These microprolactinomas are more common in women. Many small tumors remain small and never get larger.
Larger tumors, called macroprolactinomas, are more common in men. Prolactinomas in men tend to occur at an older age and can grow to a large size before any symptoms appear.
Symptoms caused by pressure from a larger tumor may include:
Note: There may be no symptoms, particularly in men.
Not everyone needs treatment for prolactinoma.
Medication is usually successful in treating prolactinoma. Surgery is done in some cases where the tumor may damage vision.
In women, treatment can improve:
Men should be treated when they have:
Large prolactinomas generally must be treated to prevent vision loss.
Bromocriptine and cabergoline are drugs that reduce prolactin levels in both men and women. They usually must be taken for life. If the drug is stopped, the tumor may grow and produce prolactin again, especially if it is a large tumor. Most people respond well to these drugs, although large prolactinomas are more difficult to treat. Both drugs may cause dizziness and upset stomach.
Using bromocriptine over time can reduce the chance of being cured by removing the tumor. Therefore, if surgery is needed, it is best to remove the tumor during the first 6 months of using this drug.
Radiotherapy with conventional radiation or gamma knife is usually reserved for patients with prolactinoma that continues or gets worse after both medication and surgery.
The outlook depends on the success of medical therapy or surgery. Tests to check whether the tumor has returned after treatment are important.
If untreated, a growing tumor can press on the optic nerves and cause:
See your health care provider if you have any symptoms of prolactinoma.
If you have had a prolactinoma in the past, call your health care provider if the symptoms return.
Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Anterior pituitary. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 8.
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