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Nonfunctional Adrenal Masses


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Glands make and release hormones.

Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Because hormones are in your blood, they travel throughout your body. They can affect many organs at the same time.

You have two adrenal glands, one above each kidney. The adrenal glands release several different hormones that help control your blood pressure, heart rate, balance of water and salt, response to stress, and some male-type sex features.

What are nonfunctional adrenal masses?

An adrenal mass is a lump or growth on your adrenal gland. "Nonfunctional" means the mass doesn't release adrenal hormones.

What causes nonfunctional adrenal masses?

Causes of nonfunctional adrenal masses include:

  • Noncancerous growths

  • Cancer

  • Cysts (fluid-filled sacs)

  • Bleeding inside the adrenal gland

  • Infections that spread to the adrenal gland

What are the symptoms of a nonfunctional adrenal mass?

Usually, you won't have any symptoms. But if the mass was caused by bleeding you may:

  • Have belly pain

  • Feel weak or dizzy

How can doctors tell if I have a nonfunctional adrenal mass?

Doctors often find an adrenal mass when looking at CT scans or MRIs you had for a different problem. To see if the adrenal mass is making adrenal hormones they’ll do:

  • Blood tests

How do doctors treat a nonfunctional adrenal mass?

Treatment depends on the size of the mass.

For a large mass, doctors will:

  • Do surgery to take it out

For a small mass, doctors will:

  • Leave the mass alone and do blood tests from time to time to check hormone levels

For a mass of in-between size, doctors will check to see if the mass is growing by doing:

Doctors will remove small or in-between size masses if they keep growing or start to release adrenal hormones.

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