adrenal photo
adrenal photo



  • The adrenal glands are endocrine glands which release hormones into the blood system
  • The adrenal cortex produces three main types of steroid hormones: mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and androgens. The adrenal medulla is the main source of the catecholamines adrenaline and noradrenaline
  • These hormones are essential for many body processes, including metabolism, sexual development and puberty, and stress response
  • Adrenal tumors can be cancerous or not cancerous. Even benign(not cancerous) adrenal tumors can be dangerous or cause uncomfortable symptoms

Adrenal incidentaloma, adrenal adenoma, pheochromocytoma, paraganglioma, conn’s and cushing’s syndrome

Adrenal gland tumors may or may not cause symptoms and symptoms depend on the type of hormones secreted by the tumor. If you have an adrenal gland tumor, symptoms may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Women: Excess facial and body hair, deep voice, menstrual irregularities
  • Men: Breast tenderness or enlargement, lowered sex drive
  • Excess fat in the upper back between the shoulders or the neck
  • Round, full face – moon facies
  • Thin skin that bruises easily
  • Purple-red stretch marks on the belly, thighs or breasts
  • Fatigue, Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep disorders
  • Low potassium levels
  • Headache
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Anxiety, Panic
  • Pallor
  • Dizziness
  • Tremor
  • Sweating

Adrenal gland tumors are diverse and the diagnosis can be challenging


  1. Blood tests to evaluate levels of certain hormones – cortisol, aldosterone, plasma metanephrines, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and chemicals – sodium and potassium
  2. Urine tests – 24-hour urine collection tests
  3. Diagnostic imaging tests
  • Computed tomography
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography)
  • MIBG (meta-iodobenzylguanidine) scans

Treatment of adrenal gland tumors depends on several factors, including the type of the disease and general health of the patient. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended :

  • Surgery to remove one or both adrenal glands
  • Systemic therapies – chemotherapy, molecular targeted therapies, nuclear medicine agents
  • Medicines – to balance hormone levels or replace deficient hormones

Tumors commonly form on the adrenal glands, but most of them are harmless and do not need to be surgically removed. However, in few cases it is recommended to remove the adrenal tumor


Indications for adrenal surgery are:

  1. To rule out cancer in the presence of suspicious features like size >4cm or a certain appearance on imaging
  2. Functioning tumours – if the tumor is secreting too much of a hormone, like adrenaline (pheochromocytoma), cortisol (Cushing’s syndrome), or aldosterone (Conn’s syndrome)
  3. Solitary Metastasis – if the adrenal tumor is a metastasis from another cancer and it is the only location to which cancer has spread
  4. Cushing’s disease with failed pituitary surgery


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