A hypothalamic tumor is a growth that develops inside or on top of the hypothalamus gland in the brain.
What is going on in the body?
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.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
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.
What can be done to prevent the condition?
There is no known way to prevent hypothalamic tumors.
How is the condition diagnosed?
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.
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Untreated hypothalamic tumors can eventually lead to blindness, weight loss, and death.
What are the risks to others?
There are no risks to others, as the condition is not contagious.
What are the treatments for the condition?
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.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
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.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Long-term survival is likely if the tumor is successfully removed.
How is the condition monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
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