- Jul 1, 2015
Too bad this guy's fate changed when it was already too late after he turned 30.
[size=medium]Pituitary Tumor a Culprit in Delayed Puberty[/size]
At 27, Ken Baker still had the sexual development of a child. He was pudgy, stubble-free and could pass for a high school freshman.
At age 15, his development was brought to a halt by a marble-size tumor on his pituitary gland that went undiagnosed for over a decade.
According to a study released by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, one in five people will develop a pituitary tumor. Only one-third of these will cause serious disorders.
The pituitary is sometimes called the ''master gland.'' The size of a pea, it secretes hormones, and invaded by a tumor, it can halt or speed any hormonal function, drastically affecting bodily functions.
The tumors are hard to detect. Patients can go years without diagnoses. Mr. Baker, a minor league hockey player from Hamburg, N.Y., was beset by depression, fatigue, weight gain and sexual dysfunction, and doctors, who for years gave him medication for his individual complaints, never looking at the whole picture. He was told to diet, eat less and not to worry about his ''lack of manhood.'' He recalled one doctor telling him that it was ''in his head.''
Pituitary tumors are generally incurable but treatable. Most patients undergo surgery, sometimes followed by radiation, and almost all take medicines to control hormone levels. Surgery is the best option for patients whose tumors are too large to be treated with medication alone.
Successful surgery to reduce or remove the tumor, followed by a regimen of medication, allows most patients to return to a somewhat normal life. But surgery has its risks, said Dr. Hrayr Shahinian, a neurosurgeon and the director of the Skull Base Institute at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. An incision hitting the optic nerve could cause blindness and hitting the carotid artery could cause death, said Dr. Shahinian, who was Mr. Baker's neurosurgeon.
But it is the diagnosis that is problematic. One reason it can go undetected for so long is its myriad symptoms. Doctors often see patients whose depressions have been attributed to many factors, but rarely pituitary malfunction.
''Nobody looks at the whole patient,'' said Dr. Anne Klibanski, chief of endocrinology and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She added that women often received diagnoses earlier than men because loss of menstruation indicates a problem. In men, however, a sign is loss of libido and sexual performance, conditions easily attributed to stress or other causes.
Tumors are commonly diagnosed through blood testing of all pituitary functions. For many patients, these tests are a last-ditch attempt to seek answers after years of suffering.
Mr. Baker, whose tumor was diagnosed after a blood test, said he requested the test after his girlfriend insisted that something was ''just chemically wrong.''
Mr. Baker's surgery succeeded. Right after it, Mr. Baker, now a writer and semi-pro hockey player at 31, began going through puberty, a process he describes with the joy few teenagers would exhibit. Over a course of 96 hours, he experienced the life of a teenager, almost two decades later. He grew facial hair and, for the first time, broke out with acne in what his doctor described as a ''testosterone surge.''