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Adrenal Gland Tumor

Written by Dr.Mary

What is an Adrenal Gland Tumor?

Adrenal gland tumor is a condition in the endocrine system due to cellular aberration and mass formation brought by abnormality in secretion of hormone. A tumor can be referred as benign or non-cancerous, and malignant or cancerous. This gland situated on top of each kidney has two main parts with separate function.

  1. Adrenal Cortex or Outer Part – makes the three hormones; cortisol, aldosterone and dehydroepianderosterone that controls metabolism and body characteristics.
  2. Adrenal Medulla or Inner Part – makes the other hormones; epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine that control body’s response to stress and adrenaline surge.

The adrenal gland tumor can be functioning, the one that overproduce hormone, or the non-functioning, the one that does not produce hormone.

Disruption in the normal body function may cause if this condition is left untreated. It may lead to hormonal imbalance, diabetes, weight gain and high blood pressure bringing life at risk.

Adrenal Gland Tumor Symptoms

Adrenal gland tumor symptoms can be common and severe.

Common symptoms

  • Presence of abdominal stretch marks
  • High blood pressure
  • Low potassium
  • Diabetes
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Palpitations

Severe symptoms

  • Feeling of fullness
  • Absence of hunger
  • Fever
  • Abdominal mass
  • Weight loss
  • Severe abdominal pain

Symptoms can also include syndromes that are linked to adrenal gland tumor.

Cushing’s Syndrome – a syndrome resulting from exposure to high levels of hormone cortisol and manifest with symptoms like excessive hair growth (hirsutism), severe acne, weakness, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.

Conn’s Syndrome – a syndrome resulting from excessive production of aldosterone and manifest with symptoms like high blood pressure, frequent urination, low level of potassium and excessive thirst.

Pheochromocytoma – this condition involves the hormone epinephrine and norepinephrine responsible n regulating blood pressure and heart rate thus, symptoms include fast pulse, headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations and clammy skin.


Cause of adrenal gland tumor has been unknown to researchers except that this type of tumor is rare yet very aggressive. It is said to be of hereditary in nature.


Women mostly tend to acquire adrenal gland tumor than men. Often times this tumor occurs at the age between 45-50 years but can occur at any age. A series of test are performed to diagnose patient with adrenal gland tumor. Symptoms manifested by the patient also help to diagnose tumor. There are also factors considered in obtaining diagnosis. The factors considered are the following:

  • Severity of symptoms
  • Age and medical condition of the patient
  • Previous test obtained
  • Suspected type of tumor

Physical examination is also done to gain basis for the diagnosis of a tumor.

The following are procedures done to help diagnose adrenal tumor:


A procedure of collecting tissue sample to examine under a microscope. Fine needle aspiration is used to collect tissue sample. Biopsy of adrenal gland is not recommended if there is suspicion of adrenal cancer as this may help spread of cancer. However, biopsy may be done if cancer has spread to adrenal gland from any other part of the body in which cancer has started. This is to classify or determine the type of cancer and can help the doctor plan the treatment to be applied. A specialized imaging procedure is used by the radiologist to obtain sample. Tissue sample will be then analyzed by a pathologist.


Blood Test

Blood sample is collected from the patient to measure the amount of hormones produced during stress period to detect a functional tumor. A pill is to be taken by a patient prior to blood sample collection.

Urine Test

A 24-hour urine sample is collected to determine the speed or how fast various hormones are produced. Doctors should be advised of any medication prior to laboratory timeframe to eradicate erroneous or doubtful result.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

This procedure creates a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body and often used with a help of a special dye to obtain a better view of an affected area. This is done with the use of an x-ray machine.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A detailed image is produce with this type of test as this procedure uses a magnetic field. A special dye is also injected in the vein of the patient of a better imaging.

Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan

This procedure is done with a use of chemical similar to adrenaline that collects in a neuroendocrine tumor. This scan normally takes two consecutive days and uses a special camera for detection of MIBG collection.

After diagnostic procedures are doctors will then review the collected data and results will be then revealed. Staging follows or cancer can then be defined.

Adrenal Gland Tumor Treatment

Treatment for adrenal tumor depends on some factors like the type of tumor, stage of the tumor, preference, overall health of the patient and side effects it can possibly create to the patient. Small and benign tumor does not require surgery but frequent monitoring of tumor growth is required.

Listed below are other possible treatments for adrenal gland tumor:


Adrenalectomy is the surgical procedure of removing the adrenal gland with the tumor surrounding it. If the tumor is much smaller and not cancerous a Laparascopic procedure is done with a use of lighted flexible tube that makes a small incision to the skin.

Medical Therapy

Medications are prescribed to control the level of hormone for those with adrenal gland tumor.


Chemotherapy is used to kill and prevent cell from growing and dividing.

Radiation Therapy

Tumor cells are killed through high powered x-ray and other particles.

Patients are encouraged to talk to their doctors and healthcare team to discuss their feelings and opinions with the medication and therapy they are taking. Only the doctor and the health care team can help patient with their question regarding their condition and the treatment they are taking. It is important to be honest and open with their doctors when discussing present health condition. Doctors know best.

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