Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Russell Watson, It's Not All About You

Following my last post about Russell Watson, I felt inspired to find out about some other famous people who have had pituitary adenomas, using the trusty-yet-woefully-incomplete-and-indeed-quite-inaccurate Wikipedia List of Brain Tumour Patients. And I have learned about:

Pío de Jesús Pico
last Governor of California under Mexican rule.

Governor Pico is my absolute favourite discovery. Not just because I love a guy with a sexy beard, not just because of his awesome name, but also because he is a very intriguing case of retrodiagnosis. Pío Pico lived from 1801 to 1894; acromegaly was first identified in 1886 and he was never diagnosed in his lifetime. In 2010, this paper was published suggesting that he suffered from acromegaly. Looking at pictures of him from 1847 to 1858, he progressively exhibits more of the characteristics associated with acromegaly; this picture from 1858 clearly shows a large forehead, big nose and enlarged lips, a hairless face and hairloss from the eyebrows, which could indicate secondary hypothyroidism, and misaligned eyes which could be due to the tumour pressing on cranial nerves. If you look at the article I linked above, there are more photographs which show his huge hands.

But that's not where the interesting ends. The Governor lived well into his nineties - no mean achievement for a Victorian - while the article suggests that around 80% of patients with untreated acromegaly would be expected to die in the first ten years after diagnosis. It seems instead that his pituitary adenoma spontaneously infarcted sometime after 1858; pictures of him as an old man show that his facial features and hands have become much smaller, he has a full beard and his eyebrows have grown back.*

Kevyn Aucoin
American make-up artist and photographer

Another pituitary adenoma and a really sad case. Kevyn Aucoin was a well-known make-up artist and photographer who had worked for Vogue and Revlon, wrote books and appeared on TV. He was diagnosed with acromegaly aged 39, although it's believed he suffered from the condition for some time before it was diagnosed, and the pain of it resulted in an addiction to prescription painkillers. After surgery for his pituitary tumour, his use of painkillers intensified and he died, only a few months later, from liver and kidney failure. You can read about him on his Wikipedia page and this article.

Sun Mingming
7'9" basketball player

You could probably guess from the subtitle that Sun Mingming also has acromegaly (an overrepresented condition in this sample! I guess because the symptoms are so unusual, lazy journalists don't just write "brain tumour" and move on). Pituitary adenomas which secrete growth hormone and develop before puberty result in sufferers becoming very tall; in adulthood it's all about the growth of soft tissues. Sun underwent gamma knife radiosurgery at the age of 23 and is still playing.

James Murphy
Death metal guitarist man

It's been kind of a challenge to discover much about James Murphy and his pituitary macro-adenoma, but in this article he certainly emphasises the fact that it's a benign tumour rather than cancer, and that although it can cause some serious problems and, rarely, death, the prognosis is nowhere near as bad as a cancerous brain tumour. One online forum I bumped across in my researchings was castigating celebrities who fail to make this distinction, so good on him.

From the hints about his ongoing "hormone inhibiting treatment," which on one site is said to be bromocriptine, and the fact that he's not obviously acromegalicious** I'm guessing he has a nasty prolactinoma, but that is just a guess. I'm kind of hoping so, purely because I've found it so hard to get examples of famous pituitary tumourheads who have something other than acromegaly.*** His tumour seems to have been pretty badly located, as they operated basically through his face rather than the nose or mouth, something I hadn't come across before.


So there you have it, a brief run down of some famous folk. There are actually quite a few more cases of acromegaly which I came across - people like Andre the Giant, for instance. But that's enough for now.

UPDATE: True to my word, I have written another post about more famous people with pituitary adenomas. I've also written about famous people with Cushing's Disease and the question of whether there are any famous women with acromegaly.
*Sadly, the article notes that he suffered a lot of abuse and discrimination in his lifetime for his unusual appearance.

**Acromegaly sufferers: you should use this word.

***Acromegalicious folk are obviously awesome, but I'm trying to be balanced here. As for finding anyone famous with a TSHoma like me - it's difficult enough just finding published case studies.


    Compare Martin Bashir who went down the "I have a brain tumour but I'm getting on with my life" and Wyndham Lewis the writer and painter, who refused to have treatment and gradually went blind and died from his tumour in the 50s.

    1. I hadn't heard about Martin Bashir or Wyndham Lewis! May have to feature them both in a future post, although so far the only article I've managed to find about Wyndham Lewis's pituitary tumour is written in Spanish.

  2. Nice blog, thanks for sharing the information. I will come to look for update. Keep up the good work.

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