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How do health care providers diagnose pituitary tumors?

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A doctor will usually begin by giving you a physical exam and asking about your medical history. She or he will check your general health and examine your body for unusual things like lumps.

You might be given tests or procedures such as:1

  • Eye and visual field exam
  • Neurological exam: During this exam, the doctor gives you a series of tests and questions to check your coordination, mental status, reflexes, and muscle function.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan: MRI uses magnetic waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body, while a CT scan uses X-rays to produce these pictures. These machines create images of the inside of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Blood tests to check levels of hormones, blood sugar, and other substances
  • Urine tests to determine levels of certain hormones
  • Venous sampling: In this type of test, a sample of blood is taken from veins coming from the pituitary gland. Levels of certain hormones are measured in the blood sample.
  • Biopsy: Cells or tissues are removed from the pituitary gland. They are then examined under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

To find out more about diagnosis of pituitary tumors, visit the National Cancer Institute's General Information section on pituitary tumors.


  1. National Cancer Institute. (2011). Pituitary Tumors Treatment (PDQ), Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/pituitary/Patient/page9/AllPages#7 [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/22/2013
Last Reviewed Date: 09/30/2013
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