Pediatric Adrenal Masses

Pediatric Adrenal Masses



An adrenal mass is a tumor inside an adrenal gland. Some adrenal masses are cancerous (malignant); others are noncancerous (benign).

The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. Their job is to produce and secrete several hormones (cortisol, aldosterone, epinephrine, norepinephrine, estrogen). Adrenal masses can cause an increase in the level of hormones that are released.

The exact cause of adrenal masses is unknown. As with all types of tumors, they manifest as a growth of abnormal cells that multiply rapidly.

Certain inherited genetic conditions may put children at risk for adrenal masses:


Many children with adrenal masses will not experience any symptoms; in fact, many adrenal masses are discovered during diagnostic testing for other clinical conditions that are unrelated to adrenal disease. For those who do experience symptoms, those symptoms are often related to an excess production of hormones. Symptoms will vary from child to child, but may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Excess body hair
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Frequent urination
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unusual acne
  • Weight gain or weight loss


There are several methods that are used for diagnosing adrenal masses. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these methods:

  • History and physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Fine needle biopsy (removal of a small amount of tissue using a thin needle; the tissue is later examined under a microscope)


  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Hormone therapy: using medications to control hormone levels
  • Radiation therapy to destroy the tumor
  • Chemotherapy: using an oral or intravenous (IV) medication to kill cancer cells

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