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Cancer Genetics

Adrenal Adenoma

06/03/2009

Question:

My brother had a CT scan done and it showed that he has a 4.8 cm adrenal gland on his left side. He now has to get a 24 hour urine sample and blood tests for hormones. His doctor told him that they are going to have to do surgery to remove it beause of the size of it. What can you tell me about adrenal adenomas? Does it run in families? Do I need to be tested?

Answer:

I will defer discussion about the biological aspects of adenal adenomas ton one of my colleagues with more experience this area.  But I will try to address your questions about whether adrenal adenomas can run in families.

Adrenal adenomas are found in about 4% of people, and are frequently found when someone has abdominal imaging for some other reason, much like your brother I suspect.  Most of the time they do not run in families, but rather occur as a "sporadic" event.  So, the risk to you would be rather low.  However, you should talk with your primary doctor about this and ask whether you should have any additional screening for possilbe endocrine tumors like your brother's adrenal adenoma.

Sometimes adrenal adenomas can be part of a hereditary condition.  When adrenal adenomas are part of a hereditary syndrome, they typically occur at young ages, and often occur in both adrenal glands.  Frequently there are other rare tumors, either in the same person or in other members of the family.  Some of these tumors may produce hormones or they may be invasive cancers.

While the likelihood that this is part of a hereditary tumor or cancer syndrome is low, you or your brother might benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor to review your family history and discussing whether htis might be part of a possible hereditary syndrome.  You can locate a genetic counselor at the National Society of Genetic Counselors website or on the National Cancer Institute website.  Links to both websites are included with this.

Related Resources:

Cancer.gov
Society of Genetic Counselors Resource Center

For more information:

Go to the Cancer Genetics health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University