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Supportive care for pituitary gland tumours

Supportive care helps people meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of having a pituitary gland tumour. It is an important part of care.

Recovering from a pituitary gland tumour and adjusting to life after treatment is different for each person, depending on the type of tumour, the type of treatment and many other factors. The end of treatment may bring mixed emotions. Even though treatment has ended, there may be other issues to deal with, such as coping with long-term side effects. A person who has been treated for a pituitary gland tumour may have the following concerns.

Hypopituitarism

Hypopituitarism is a condition that happens when the pituitary gland is not making enough of 1 or more of its hormones. It causes low levels of pituitary gland hormones in the body. Hypopituitarism can happen when:

  • a tumour has damaged or destroyed parts of the pituitary gland
  • the pituitary gland is damaged during surgery or radiation therapy
  • part or all of the pituitary gland has been removed during surgery

Hypopituitarism can lead to symptoms and health problems, including fatigue, abnormal blood pressure, infertility, extreme thirst and urinating often. The symptoms vary and depend on which pituitary gland hormones are affected.

Hypopituitarism is treated with hormone replacement drugs. You may only take the drugs for a short time, but it is more likely that you will take them for the rest of your life. How hormone replacement is given and how often it is given depend on the type of hormone being replaced.

Find out more about drug therapy for pituitary gland tumours, including hormone replacement.

Diabetes insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is a condition that happens when the body makes large amounts of urine. It happens when the pituitary gland makes too little antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH controls the amount of water in the body and how much urine is made.

Diabetes insipidus can be caused by a pituitary gland tumour. It may also happen after surgery to remove a pituitary gland tumour. It is usually temporary and gets better in a few weeks after surgery.

Diabetes insipidus is managed by drinking lots of fluids to replace what is lost in the urine, prevent dehydration and relieve thirst. Fluids can also be given by a needle into a vein (intravenous fluids). A drug called desmopressin (DDAVP) may also be used to replace ADH. It is given by a nose spray, pill or injection.

Vision problems

Some people have vision problems or vision loss caused by a pituitary gland tumour pressing on the nerve that goes between the eye and the brain (optic nerve). Vision problems usually improve after treatment such as surgery. In some cases, vision problems may last for a long time.

Your healthcare team can suggest ways you can manage vision problems or changes.

Find out more about vision changes, including tips to manage them.

Questions to ask about supportive care

To make decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about supportive care.

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