Benign Adrenal Tumors

1 What are Benign Adrenal Tumors?

Benign adrenal tumors are non-cancerous growths from the cortical or medullary regions of adrenal glands.

Adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and produce hormones that play an important role in functioning of different organs.

Benign adrenal tumors may be asymptomatic or hyperfunctioning.

Hyperfunctioning tumors result in the excessive production of hormones.

Symptoms of benign adrenal tumors are distinct based on the type of hormone that is produced in excess.

Non-cancerous adrenal tumors without any symptoms may not require any specific treatment.

The increased production of hormones may result in life-threatening situations and require immediate treatment.

Symptoms of benign adrenal tumors can be controlled by medications or surgery.

2 Symptoms

Most cases of benign adrenal tumors are asymptomatic and are diagnosed at the time of screening for some other indication.

Symptoms are produced by tumors that increase the production of hormones.

Thus, symptoms are based on the location of tumor.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Excess aldosterone – results in Conn’s syndrome characterized by high blood pressure and low potassium levels.
  • Excess cortisol – leads to Cushing’s syndrome characterized by high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
  • Excess androgens – leads to excess hair growth, acne, muscle mass and abnormal menstrual periods in women.
  • Excess estrogen – results in enlarged breasts and impotence in men.
  • Excess adrenaline – results in pheochromocytoma characterized by headaches, high blood pressure, palpitations and panic attacks.

3 Causes

The actual cause of benign adrenal tumors are not known. 

Certain hereditary conditions like multiple endocrine neoplasia, Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, and neurofibromatosis increase the risk of developing benign adrenal tumors.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Benign adrenal tumors are diagnosed at the time of screening for some other indication

Blood and urine tests are used to detect the levels of adrenal hormones.

Functional tumors result in the excessive production of hormones.

A small sample of tissue is removed through fine needle aspiration to conduct a biopsy.

A biopsy reveals the presence of abnormal cells and tissues in the organs.

Imaging techniques

Imaging techniques are used to locate the tumor within the gland.

CT-scans and MRI helps to visualize detailed images of the organ.

A MIBG scan helps to locate the tumor with the help of the chemical metaiodobenzylguanidine that collects in tumors.

In this procedure, scans are taken over a two day period after injection of the chemical in the arm.

Tumors are located based on the accumulation of the chemical in the gland.

5 Treatment

Treatment of benign adrenal tumors is based on several factors like overall health of the patient, type of tumor, and patient’s preference.

Both surgical and non-surgical methods are used in the treatment of benign adrenal tumors.

If the tumor is small, it is removed laparoscopically. It is less painful and has reduced post-operative recovery time.

If the tumor is larger than 5cm, open surgery is preferred to remove the tumor.

If the tumor is hyper functioning, resulting in excess production of hormones, special care is taken to control high blood pressure before surgery.

If the tumors produce excess hormones, medications are used to control their levels in the blood.

These medications may be given before, during, or after a treatment.

Drugs like metyrapone, metyrosine, spironolactone, and streptozin are used to control cortisol levels in blood.

6 Prevention

There are no ways to completely prevent benign adrenal tumors.

But, the risk of disease can be lowered considerably by taking adequate care, particularly if there is a family history of the disease.

Talking to your doctor regarding personal risk of developing this condition can help in planning early treatment for a better outcome.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies are used for benign adrenal tumors.

Budwig diet, Beta-1, 3D Glucan supplements, and herbal supplements are often used to shrink benign tumors.

However, these remedies should be used with caution as they do not have any scientific evidence.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with benign adrenal tumors.

Many of the treatment options have various side effects, including social, physical and emotional.

Sharing feelings with the healthcare team helps to cope with the disease and the treatment strategy recommended.

Some of the treatments have long-term side effects that one can overcome with the support of family and friends.

Knowing the risk factors and discussing it with the doctor will help in making the right lifestyle choices.

9 Risks and Complications

High blood pressure due to benign tumors may lead to complications like: