Sometimes a mass or tumor develops in one of the glands. In most cases these tumors do not produce any hormones and they do not alter the function of the adrenal glands. Most commonly a tumor like this is discovered by accident (incidentaloma) when you have a CT-scan or ultrasound for some other reason.
Symptoms you may have if an adrenal tumor is producing hormones:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Increased urination
- Changes in your appearance
Many tumors are small and don’t require surgery. However, you may need surgery if:
- The tumor is larger than 3 cm
- The tumor is making excess hormone.
If you have the symptoms listed and your doctor suspects you may have an adrenal mass, he or she may arrange for you to visit a lab so that analysis can be done on your urine and blood. Once the results of these tests have been reviewed by the surgeon, a decision will be made about your treatment.
Adrenal surgery is typically done laparoscopically. A laparoscope is like a tiny telescope that allows the doctor to perform the surgery without making a large cut. Through this “minimally invasive” approach an adrenal gland can be removed through small incisions, minimizing pain and bleeding and shortening the recovery period. In some patients with very large tumors of the adrenal gland or other problems, the laparoscopic approach is not recommended and the standard, larger incision is preferred.
Adrenal conditions treated at the Northern Alberta Endocrine Surgery Centre include the following:
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Primary hyperaldosteronism (Conn’s syndrome or aldosteronoma)
- Incidentally discovered adrenal masses (adrenal ‘incidentalomas’)
- Adrenocortical carcinoma
- Isolated adrenal metastases