How Can You Have a Brain Tumor for Eight Years and Be Fine?

Sue Perkins
Sue Perkins, presenter of the popular TV show the Great British Bake Off, has revealed she has been living with a brain tumour for eight years. YouTube

Great British Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins has revealed that she has been living with a benign brain tumor for eight years.

In an interview with British magazine Good Housekeeping, Perkins, 45, said that the non-cancerous tumor in her pituitary gland means she cannot have children. She thanked fans for their support on Twitter, describing her tumor as prolactinoma, a condition which occurs when a noncancerous tumor causes the pituitary gland to overproduce the prolactin hormone, resulting in decreased levels of sex hormones including oestrogen and testosterone, ultimately leading to infertility.

Ta for sweet tweets about my prolactinoma. It's benign & non-symptomatic. All fine,
Let's focus on those less fortunate in the world. X

— Sue Perkins (@sueperkins) September 1, 2015

Perkins said the tumor was discovered when she had a health check while filming The Supersizers, a show about the culinary history of Britain. Despite saying the tumor occasionally "screws up my hormones," the presenter has forged a hugely successful TV career and appears to be thriving.

Brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors are the ninth most common cancer in the U.K., constituting 3 percent of all new cases, according to Cancer Research UK. In 2011, 9,365 new cases of brain tumors were registered in the U.K. There are more than 130 different types of tumor which can affect the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. 8 percent of all brain and CNS tumors affect the pituitary gland, with 98-99 percent of these being less aggressive tumors. There are several different types of pituitary tumors, including growth hormone producing tumorswhich can lead to overgrowth of hands and feet in adultsand tumors which stimulate the thyroid gland, resulting in an irregular heartbeat.

Prolactinomas can lead to increased lactation in women and a loss of sex drive, as well as infertility. They are usually treated with drugs to reduce prolactin production by the tumor, but can also be removed by surgery which involves passing a thin tube up the nose which allows doctors to conduct surgery without going through the skull. Radiotherapy can also be used to shrink the tumors.

Hugh Adams of UK charity Brain Tumor Research says that, while prolactinomas can disrupt patient's hormones, they need not stop people living a normal life. "Prolactinomas are pretty much always benign but they are problematic because of the way they affect hormones and so they do need to be controlled medically," says Adams. "They cause a hormonal imbalance but they're not life-threatening and people can carry on their normal lives."

Melanie Hennessy, 44, from Yorkshire in the northeast of England, has spent the last six years living with brain tumors. After giving birth to her daughter, she was diagnosed with two benign tumors in November 2009, including a large grade I meningioma which pushed on her pituitary gland. Last December, she was diagnosed with a third smaller tumor, also benign.

The tumors have had a significant impact on Melanie's lifeher capacity to work has been limited and she has lost sight in her left eye as a result of surgery. However, she is now able to drive again after an enforced two-and-a-half-year absence and recently raised 600 ($917) for Brain Tumor Research by completing a fundraising walk. "I wish my life could go back to how it was, but then in another way I don't because I appreciate life more," says Melanie. "I try and not let it ruin my life, I won't let it ruin my life and luckily I'm quite stubborn that way!"