by Christine Gibbs

It may be pea-sized, but they don’t call it the Master Gland for nothing.

Irv Brechner joins daughter Stephanie and wife Nadine in the stands to root for his beloved Giants.

 Talk to Irving Brechner sometime. He will tell you small does not mean insignificant. The tiny pituitary gland, located at the base of the skull between the optic nerves, controls hormonal functions that include thyroid activity, early growth, estrogen and testosterone production, and even body temperature. Brechner was struggling with several temperature issues—specifically feeling cold most of the time, but also having hot flashes. After initial consultations with his own doctor had yielded no definitive diagnosis, he turned in February 2011 to Trinitas doctors William McHugh (the hospital’s Medical Director) and Ari Eckman (Chief of the Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Division).

Under their thoughtful examination, a diagnosis was finally forthcoming. Although pituitary tumors may be present in as much as 20% of the population, they are usually so slow-growing and typically benign that they often go unnoticed. Not the case for Brechner. Initially, he underwent a progression of tests and bloodwork, which indicated certain hormone and vitamin deficiencies that were immediately addressed, but without the hoped-for improvement. Dr. Eckman described their evolving conclusion as “the results just didn’t fit right with normal pituitary functioning.” At that point, the doctors felt the situation warranted the next step in testing hierarchy—an MRI, which revealed a large mass that was interfering with proper hormonal production. Both doctors concurred that this growth was responsible for Brechner’s non-specific symptoms and discomfort.

Dr. Eckman referred to the results as “bittersweet…unfortunate that the tumor was there, but grateful that it was benign and surgically treatable.” Dr. McHugh and Dr. Eckman provided referrals to surgeons who were expert in this area. Brechner underwent successful surgery this past December. He was in-hospital for three days, after which he returned home and was able to resume his home-office responsibilities almost immediately. Brechner was unreserved in expressing his gratitude and admiration, and how impressed he was with the skill, the thoroughness, and the personal attention he had received at Trinitas from his two dedicated doctors. In fact, he summed up everything as “a wholly wonderful experience.” Especially since his accurate diagnosis and speedy recovery enabled him to attend the Giants’ victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons as they began their amazing run to the Super Bowl. Go Big Blue!