A dedicated center for patients with pituitary disorders
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The pituitary is a small gland that sits at the base of the brain, secreting hormones that regulate functions throughout the body. When it malfunctions, the damage can be widespread: brain function, cognition, reproduction, moods, vision, skin, muscle, bones, weight. Pituitary disorders can go unnoticed for years. A lack or excess of a hormone can be masked by other symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.
A multidisciplinary approach
The Barrow Pituitary Center, the only one in Arizona, treats more people with pituitary disorders than any other in the Southwest. The Center’s team includes a neurologist, ophthalmologist, radiation oncologist, rheumatologist, dietician and rehabilitation therapists. Key to the team’s success is a dedicated pituitary surgeon who operates weekly, developing a level of expertise not found in doctors who see a pituitary case infrequently.
At the center is the neuroendocrinologist – a pituitary specialist – who coordinates the team to care for the patient. Pituitary patients face complex health problems, often battling two or three complications at the same time. “It’s like seeing three patients in one,” says Dr. Kevin Yuen, co-director of the Barrow Pituitary Center.
The Center is also home to a specialized endocrine testing unit. Simple blood tests are not sufficient in treating pituitary disorders. Multiple blood draws under specific conditions must be taken at regular intervals over three or four hours. The unit helps make the experience less burdensome for patients.
Finding answers to complex conditions
Since pituitary disorders are difficult to diagnose, specialists at the Barrow Pituitary Center, led by Dr. Kevin Yuen, are conducting research to better understand how pituitary disease develops and find biomarkers that can track its progression. These would help improve diagnosis and lead to new drugs that work better with fewer side effects. Barrow specialists are also bringing clinical trials to patients who can immediately benefit from innovative therapies. Patients are able to try leading-edge medicines before anyone else and have no out-of-pocket expense, a relief from the high cost of most pituitary drugs.
Research is vital to improving diagnostics, more quickly identifying pituitary disorders and developing more effective drugs. As this work proceeds, it is also important to increase general endocrinologists’ knowledge and understanding of all that can go wrong in the pituitary.
Additional resources would allow the center to accelerate its research activities. Funding would support Dr. Yuen’s research, pay for additional staff to conduct studies and patient care, support patient travel and develop additional symposia. It would also allow for creation and staffing of a database to collect and compare information on all patients who come through the center. This data, so important in a condition that is under-reported, would enhance knowledge of pituitary disorders.
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