There are two adrenal glands each rests on the upper pole of corresponding kidney. They appear like a French Liberty cap worn at a rakish angle. The normal function of these tiny adrenal glands is to produce hormones that are very important for the body. Adrenal glands are also called supra renal glands.
Most tumors arising from the adrenal gland are benign in nature, meaning non- cancerous. The adrenal gland is comprised of two parts; cortex is the outer layer, while medulla is the inner layer. The outer cortex produces hormones cortisone, aldosterone.
The inner medulla produces adrenaline, and noradrenaline hormone. Benign adrenal gland tumor arises from the outer portion called the adrenal cortex. This tumor is also known as adrenal adenoma.
Benign adrenal tumor usually does not cause any problem, unless it starts to function, meaning the tumor starts producing hormones in excess. If the tumor does not secrete any hormones it is non- functioning. A functioning benign adrenal tumor can cause lot of problems in the body.
Adrenal tumor can be present in males as well as females. It is commonly seen between 40 to 60 years of age, though it can occur at any age.
Generally benign adrenal tumor is found accidentally while doing imaging such as sonogram or CT scan for some other disease condition.
Symptoms Of Adrenal Gland Tumor
Most patients having benign adrenal gland tumor are asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms of the disease. However, in a functioning tumor symptoms are observed due to excess production of hormones. Production of excess of cortisone hormone can cause Cushing syndrome. Excess of Aldosterone hormone can cause Conn’s syndrome and increase production of sex hormone androgen can cause excess of hair growth in females. Excess of estrogen brings about effeminacy in males.
Some of the symptoms noted in Cushing syndrome are:
- High blood pressure
- Moon face
- Central obesity
- Muscular weakness
- Backache due to osteoporosis.
- Hirsutism, excess growth of hair in females.
- Buffalo hump. (Accumulation of fat at the lower part of the neck).
- Recession of scalp hair in females.
- Menstrual disorders and amenorrhea is common in females.
- Deepening of voice in females.
- Clitoral enlargement in females with increased libido.
Symptoms noted in Conn’s syndrome where there is excessive production of aldosterone:
- High blood pressure
- Increased urinary frequency
- Thirst for excessive water
- A low level of potassium causes episodic weakness
Treatment Options For Adrenal Tumors
There are several treatment options available for benign adrenal gland tumor.
- If the tumor is functioning, then its surgical removal is the only choice. The surgery performed is called adrenalectomy. It can be performed in various ways. The doctor will suggest the most appropriate surgical method for the patient, whether he needs trans-abdominal surgery or a laparoscopic keyhole surgery to remove the tumor.
- If the tumor is bigger in size, more than 3 cms, or there is evidence of bleeding on MRI it needs to be removed surgically.
- Adrenal tumor that is non-functioning and its appearance on MRI indicates to be benign and less than 3 cm can be monitored conservatively, with regular yearly scanning. The patient needs to keep regular follow up with his doctor.