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Radiation Therapy for Pituitary Tumors

Radiation therapy for pituitary tumors involves sending high-energy beams of particles (usually photons or protons) through the skin toward the tumor. When the beams reach their target, they can destroy the tumor cells by damaging their DNA.

Radiation therapy can be used in one of several ways for pituitary tumors. It may be recommended after surgery to prevent regrowth of a tumor. Radiation may also be used as the sole treatment if the tumor cannot be removed surgically, or if the tumor regrows after surgery.

The radiation therapy team at Memorial Sloan Kettering is highly experienced in caring for people with pituitary tumors, and works closely with the other members of your care team. They have access to every form of modern radiation therapy available and will customize a treatment plan so precise that it factors in the size and shape of your tumor to the millimeter.

Their goal is to not only eliminate the tumor cells but to prevent the side effects of treatment by keeping the healthy cells around the tumor safe.

We offer several radiation therapy options for people with tumors in the pituitary gland. These approaches are designed to target tumor cells as precisely as possible while avoiding the serious side effects that can occur when healthy brain tissue is affected.

Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is delivered by a device called a cyclotron, which sends a high-energy beam of protons through the skin toward the tumor. Because the proton beams do not penetrate beyond the tumor, proton therapy lowers your risk for treatment-related side effects caused by exposing normal tissue to radiation. Proton therapy may also allow the use of a higher radiation dose to the tumor, maximizing the chance of destroying it.

Memorial Sloan Kettering is one of a limited number of centers nationwide offering proton therapy. You will receive care from a very experienced proton team. Before starting proton therapy, you will have an imaging scan such as MRI to outline the precise dimensions of the tumor that will undergo proton therapy.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a high-dose treatment developed by experts at MSK that allows radiation to be delivered with greater precision to the tumor than conventional radiation therapy. A team of radiation experts, including doctors and physicists, uses a computerized system to shape the radiation beam to match a 3-D outline of the tumor previously generated by MRI and CT scans. SRS allows us to spare surrounding healthy brain tissue from any significant dose of radiation. Oftentimes, our patients only require one treatment with SRS.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is another form of radiation treatment we sometimes recommend for patients with pituitary adenomas. Like SRS, it provides greater precision than traditional forms of radiation therapy, and was developed by the radiation therapy experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Prior to treatment, we use a CT scanner to map the tumor in 3-D. Then a team of radiation therapy experts, including doctors and physicists, will use advanced computer programs to calculate and deliver radiation directly to the tumor from different angles.