Acromegaly is an uncommonly-diagnosed debilitating disease that results from having too much growth hormone. In most cases, the cause of excessive growth hormone production in acromegaly is a non-cancerous tumor on the pituitary gland. Acromegaly develops gradually, so the diagnosis is often missed or delayed by as much as ten years. Due to these delays in diagnosis, approximately 80% of people with acromegaly already have a large tumor by the time the disease is recognized. For these patients, the rate of cure with surgical removal of the tumor is 50% or less because it is more difficulty to completely remove the tumor.
For people with acromegaly who cannot have surgery, and for those whom surgery did not result in a cure, medical therapy is available. One of these medical therapies is Sandostatin® (octreotide acetate for injectable suspension), a prescription medication that is structurally similar to somatostatin, a naturally-occurring hormone in the body. One of the main functions of somatostatin is to inhibit the secretion of growth hormone. Sandostatin may help to reduce growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor levels in patients with acromegaly who fail treatment with surgery or radiation. The safety of Sandostatin has been studied for over 20 years in over 600 clinical trials. According to recent guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of acromegaly, about 55% of patients achieve normal growth hormone levels with somatostatin analogues such as Sandostatin. Sandostatin may also result in modest or significant reduction in tumor size in some patients.
Radiotherapy is usually used as a last resort in acromegaly, when surgery and medication haven’t worked. While techniques for radiotherapy have improved to better target the tumor and limit radiation exposure to surrounding tissue, radiation may take several years, or even over a decade, to work. There may be significant drawbacks to radiotherapy, one of which is hypopituitarism, or failure of the pituitary gland. More than half of patients who undergo radiotherapy develop hypopituitarism after five to 10 years.
For more information about acromegaly, including options for treatment, talk to your healthcare provider. If you have acromegaly, get informed and take control by learning all you can about acromegaly.