A hypothalamic tumor is a growth that develops inside or on top of the hypothalamus gland in the brain.
The hypothalamus, a tiny gland located underneath the brain roughly in the center of the skull, can be thought of as the command center for hormonal release throughout the body.
Dysfunction of the hypothalamus may affect the function of the thyroid, the pituitary, the pineal gland, the adrenals, the pancreas, and the ovaries or testicles causing a vast array of symptoms. In addition, a tumor in the hypothalamus may cause problems directly from compression or damage to nearby brain structures.
Hypothalamic tumors, that is, tumors that start in the hypothalamus, are most common in children. They produce a wide variety of symptoms that may be difficult to evaluate in children who are too young to speak. A hypothalamic tumor is suspected if a child shows signs of: hyperactivityweight loss vomiting
Other symptoms include: pallor (pale color of the skin and eyes)involuntary eye movementexcessive sweating tremor or shakinessirritability loss of vision
A tumor of the hypothalamus gland that occurs in an adult is most likely a malignancy that has spread from another site in the body. There may be symptoms related to the hypothalamus, but the outcome is most likely to be related to the type of cancer and the site from which it has come.
Approximately 20% of people with neurofibromatosis, an inherited disorder involving the growth of fibrous swellings on the nerves, will develop a hypothalamic tumor. Other cases occur for unknown reasons.
There is no known way to prevent hypothalamic tumors.
As with most conditions, diagnosis begins with the history and physical exam, including a careful neurological exam. The healthcare professional will then order a cranial CT scan or cranial MRI to look for the tumor. Various blood and urine tests can give additional information. Eye exams are also used for diagnosis and follow-up.
Untreated hypothalamic tumors can eventually lead to blindness, weight loss, and death.
There are no risks to others, as the condition is not contagious.
Surgery to remove the tumor may be recommended. Because of the size and location of hypothalamic tumors, many of them cannot be completely removed. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also be used to shrink the tumor.
Surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or a reaction to the anesthetic. Radiation and chemotherapy have many side effects including nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Treatment, even if successful, may not correct a vision loss. Some hormonal abnormalities may occur following radiation or chemotherapy, that require replacement therapy.
Long-term survival is likely if the tumor is successfully removed.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
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