Frequently Asked Questions

Physician (Primary Care Provider) FAQs

What is a typical patient referral scenario for a pituitary tumor (from Primary Care Provider to neurosurgeon or neuroendocrinologist)?

Patients may be referred to the Seattle Pituitary Center where each will be seen by an endocrinologist, neurosurgeon, and radiation oncologist. All three appointments occur on the same day, as indicated. Occasionally, some testing will be requested in advance (e.g. prolactin level, visual field exam) which will facilitate the triage and institution of treatment.

How do I talk to my patient about the possibility of having a pituitary tumor?

The overwhelming majority of pituitary tumors are benign, and we can nearly always manage their care medically or with minimally-invasive surgery. Malignant tumors are exceptionally rare.

What are the risks and possible adverse outcomes of pituitary tumor treatment?

The transsphenoidal surgical procedure has very low risks, with significant complication rates less than 1%. It would be best to discuss these risks with one of our pituitary specialists.

What diagnostic testing needs to be done before referring my patient to you?

It is helpful to have MRI and visual field testing done, and a basic endocrine panel. Detailed imaging and endocrinologic assessment will be provided at Swedish Pituitary Center

What are the treatment options and possible outcomes?

  • Observation
  • Surgery
  • Medical Therapy
  • Radiosurgery

All of these treatment options have excellent outcomes when provided in the proper setting of care.

What are the most common questions patients have about pituitary tumors?

  • What causes a pituitary tumor to develop?
  • Is surgery always necessary?
  • Is a pituitary tumor cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of a pituitary tumor?
  • Is radiation therapy necessary for all pituitary tumor patients?

What follow-up care is required?

The specialists at the Seattle Pituitary Center will care for your patient during active treatment, and then coordinate subsequent care through the patient’s Primary Care Provider or a local endocrinologist.

What’s the latest technology at Swedish for treating pituitary tumors?

  • Minimally invasive trans-nasal surgery
  • Advanced imaging
  • Specialized endocrine evaluation including inferior petrosal sinus sampling
  • Radiosurgery with Gamma Knife or CyberKnife
  • Access to clinical trials for new medical therapies

What is most critical for Primary Care Providers to know about Swedish when referring their patients who have a pituitary tumor?

  • Rapid access
  • Providers are all specialists in pituitary disorders with many years of experience
  • High volume – Swedish Pituitary Center is among the largest centers in the country
  • Multi-specialty care – patients see all pertinent providers the same day, who then coordinate treatment planning
  • Continuum of care through initial treatment and following patient return to the local community

How does the neurosurgeon coordinate with the patient’s referring Primary Care Provider?

Our surgeon will send you a letter which will provide information about treatment outcome and instructions for follow up care. We will provide telephone consultation if closer coordination of care is necessary.

What are the long-term scenarios for patients after they’ve had treatment?

Excellent – nearly all return to full capacity with good quality of life

What are the advantages/benefits of sending my patient to Swedish for pituitary tumor treatment?

  • Expertise - our physicians blend their years of expertise to develop the best possible treatment plans
  • Advanced Technology - sophisticated operating rooms equipped with the most advanced minimally invasive and computer-assisted neurosurgical and brain-imaging technology
  • Comprehensive Treatment - We have the expertise and capability to provide close, long-term management, regardless of where your patient lives
  • Regional and National Reputation - We are one of the largest programs in the country and have the highest outpatient and pituitary surgery volumes in the five-state region that includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.