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Obese teen suffers from pituitary tumor

September 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
You can blame a lot of things for childhood obesity including junk food, video games and inactivity, but one Carpinteria teen says no matter what he did the weight wouldn't come off. It turns out the problem was literally in his head and the treatment was surgery. A quick check on the scale shows 16-year-old Jorge Rodriguez is down seven pounds after peaking at 285.

As a baby, everything was typical. Before age ten he was thin and active. Then the weight started to pile on.

"Yeah we tried diets, we tried some of that stuff that you buy in a drink that helps cut down on carbs, but none of that worked," said patient, Jorge Rodriguez.

He was always tired, but the chronic headaches were unbearable.

"They really got so bad that I started vomiting from time to time," said Rodriguez.

After suffering for years, a brain scan revealed a pituitary tumor. It was pushing on Jorge's optic nerves.

"They are actually one of the most common tumors that's found in the brain," said Dr. Anthony Heaney, UCLA endocrinologist.

The director of UCLA's Pituitary Neuroendocrine Program says the tumor interfered with the part of the brain that controls appetite.

"And we know that the hypothalamus is a key component of the various networks that help us regulate what we eat," said Dr. Heaney.

Besides headaches, the tumor also causes excessive production of the hormone prolactin. For Jorge this meant enlarged breasts and delayed puberty.

The only option, surgical removal. UCLA neurosurgeons decided to remove the tumor through the nose.

Two surgeons perform the procedure. One controls the endoscope the other does the drilling and cutting. This way, doctors could work deep within the brain without open surgery.

A month after the tumor was removed, Jorge is feeling great, eating less and exercising more.

"Just get back to normal weight. Go back to playing with my friends and go back to playing paintball and stuff," said Rodriguez.

Jorge says since the tumor was removed, his appetite control has kicked in. He's eating about half as much as he used to. Doctors say entering the brain through the nose meant a much lower risk and a faster recovery.

 

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