Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is a prolactinoma related to cancer?"
My doctor said he found a prolactinoma. What is this and how does it affect my breasts?
A prolactinoma is a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. It is not a cancer that typically becomes malignant, but it is an overgrowth of cells. They are actually quite common. They develop from cells in the pituitary gland (which is just outside the brain) that normally make the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that is responsible for milk production in the breasts. It is secreted in high amounts when a women is in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and while a mother is breast feeding. A prolactinoma contains more of these cells and thus, you will have a higher level of prolactin in your blood. Symptoms of a prolactinoma include galactorrhea (milk production), menstrual cycle irregularities, and occasionally difficulty getting pregnant. All of these effects are treatable with medications, or in some cases surgery. If the prolactinoma gets large enough, it can compress structures in the brain including the optic nerve. This can cause vision problems that usually manifest as tunnel vision. In these cases, the prolactinoma should be removed surgically. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist. This is a specialist that has done extra training in endocrine system disorders, which is what a prolactinoma is. The two of you can discuss the severity of your prolactinoma, and the best treatment in your particular case. Good luck.