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Pituitary tumors are extremely common. Approximately 20% of all people have one. However, the majority of these growths are benign, meaning that they not cancerous. Also, many people never experience any symptoms and therefore never receive a diagnosis for their tumor unless it is done posthumously.
You may read on the internet that one in five people have pituitary tumors. This is based on autopsy studies of generally older people. When a pathologist dissects the pituitary gland, they can find tiny, microscopic pituitary tumors that really aren't of any significance. For that reason, the one in five figure is really misleading.
When researchers looked at large populations who had had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain, they looked at how many incidental pituitary tumors they could find. About one in 1,000 pituitary tumors were discovered in this way. That correlates with what doctors see in the general population.
It is estimated that 10-25 percent of the US population has some form of small pituitary tumor, an adenoma 2-3mm, but most of these people suffer no ill effects from the tumor. Although they can occur in any age patient, most of the tumors are found in older people and are more common in women than in men. The causes for the vast majority of pituitary tumors are unknown.
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