An adrenal incidentaloma is an unsuspected tumor in one or both of your adrenal glands. This type of tumor is usually found by chance during an imaging test, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, for another condition.
There are a number of causes including:
Adrenal tumors can be non-functional or functional. Functional adrenal tumors make hormones in higher amounts than normal. Both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors can produce too much hormone. Tumors can sometimes make too much of more than one hormone.
These hormones include:
Even when discovered incidentally, adrenal tumors may cause symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on whether the tumor is non-functional or functional, and which, if any, hormones are produced in excess.
Symptoms of too much cortisol can include:
High levels of cortisol can also cause high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and low bone density (when the tissue inside your bones starts to thin).
High levels of aldosterone can cause high blood pressure, and sometimes muscle weakness.
Symptoms of too much norepinephrine or epinephrine can include:
High levels of androgens can lead to hair growth, acne and irregular periods in women.
Your doctor will evaluate your tumor to identify its cause and hormone production. This may include:
Your doctor also will need to know your family history of adrenal tumors, other kinds of tumors, syndromes that come with tumors, high blood pressure, or Cushing syndrome.
About 85% of adrenal tumors are non-functioning and may not need treatment. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the tumor, or one or both adrenal glands. Your medical team will decide whether you need surgery based on your type of tumor (benign or cancerous) and whether it is producing hormones. If you have an inherited tumor syndrome, you may need genetic counseling.
If you’ve had an adrenal incidentaloma, you may need regular follow-up.
The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.
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