The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and have two parts, the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex secretes hormones including cortisol and aldosterone. The adrenal medulla produces dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
The cause of most adrenal tumors is unknown. Risk factors for adrenal tumors can include Carney complex, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 and neurofibromatosis type 1. Adrenal tumors may be removed surgically.
Several signs and symptoms may be seen, including:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels or diabetes
- Low potassium levels
- Excessive hair growth
- Increased weight or weight loss
- Stretch marks on the abdomen
- Depressed mood
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Fat deposits on the neck
- Heart palpitation
Diagnosis & Treatment
The vast majority of adrenal tumors are benign. Most often, they do not cause any symptoms and are discovered as incidental findings on either a CT or MRI done for completely unrelated reasons, such as for evaluation of abdominal pain. As such, they are referred to as adrenal incidentalomas. Aside from categorizing them as noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), they are categorized as functioning or nonfunctioning. Functioning tumors lead to overproduction of one or more of the normal adrenal hormones.