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Radiation Therapy for Pituitary Tumors

If you've been diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, you'll most likely need some type of treatment to reduce the size of your tumor and normalize your hormone levels. Radiation therapy for pituitary tumors can achieve these goals.

In deciding what's the best option for treating your tumor, your doctor may consider other treatments, such as medications for pituitary tumors or surgery for a pituitary tumor.  Radiation therapy is not usually the first treatment tried for pituitary tumors—most often it's used in combination with surgery or after other medical treatments have failed.

Radiation therapy uses special x-rays or gamma rays to shrink your tumor, and it can be used after surgery or on its own.

It's especially useful when all of your tumor can't be safely removed by surgery, if your tumor returns after you've had surgery, or if it causes symptoms that medication can't treat.

There are 2 main types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery. Your doctor will let you know which type is right for you.

External Beam Radiation Therapy for Pituitary Tumors
This therapy delivers small doses of radiation to the tumor to shrink it. This is usually performed as a series of treatments done 5 times a week over a month and half.

Although it's generally very useful in treating pituitary tumors, it may take years to fully shrink your tumor and regulate hormone production.

However, external beam radiation therapy can damage the remaining healthy cells surrounding your pituitary gland and brain tissue, which is a risk to discuss with your doctor.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Pituitary Tumors
Stereotactic radiosurgery uses special brain-imaging techniques and radiation beams, which are the exact shape and size of your tumor, to target the tumor. There is no incision and a minimal amount of radiation is used, so there's less damage to healthy tissues near the pituitary gland.

But like external beam radiation therapy, the benefits of this treatment aren't instant, and there are some drawbacks: In some people, it can take months or even years for this treatment to fully work. Also, doctors can't use it if the pituitary tumor is too close to your optic nerves. If these nerves are damaged, it can lead to blindness.

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Surgery for Pituitary Tumors