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Pituitary Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 06/10/2014

Stages of Pituitary Tumors



Once a pituitary tumor has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if it has spread within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or to other parts of the body.

The extent or spread of cancer is usually described as stages. There is no standard staging system for pituitary tumors. Once a pituitary tumor is found, tests are done to find out if the tumor has spread into the brain or to other parts of the body. The following test may be used:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).

Pituitary tumors are described in several ways.

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Tumor size compared to everyday objects; shows various measurements of a tumor compared to a pea, peanut, walnut, and lime
Pea, peanut, walnut, and lime show tumor sizes.

Pituitary tumors are described by their size and grade, whether or not they make extra hormones, and whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.

The following sizes are used:

  • Microadenoma: The tumor is smaller than 1 centimeter.
  • Macroadenoma: The tumor is 1 centimeter or larger.

Most pituitary adenomas are microadenomas.

The grade of a pituitary tumor is based on how far it has grown into the surrounding area of the brain, including the sella (the bone at the base of the skull, where the pituitary gland sits).