SIU Division of Urology 
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Adrenal Tumor

The adrenal glands, otherwise known as supra renal glands, are triangular shaped organs that sit on the top of each kidney. Each gland is approximately one-half inch to one inch wide and two to three inches long. As a part of the endocrine system, they release hormones that regulate metabolism.

What is the adrenal gland?

The adrenal glands are approximately two and half by one inch long yellowish-orange colored glands that are found just above the kidneys. Adrenal glands provide a very important function in protecting the body against stress. This function is carried out by secretion of a number of different types of hormones by the adrenal glands.

Adrenal cortex

The adrenal gland is actually two glands that are fused together into one gland. The outer part of the adrenal gland also called the adrenal cortex produces steroid hormones that are involved in regulating a number of different body functions.

The adrenal cortex also produces a hormone called aldosterone that is involved in regulating the amount of salt and water in your body.

Adrenal medulla

The inner part of the adrenal gland is called the adrenal medulla. The adrenal medulla produces hormones called catecholamines such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. Catecholamines play a role in the response to acute or sudden severe stress, for example during life threatening event.

Catecholamines are responsible for the palpitations (racing heart), sweatiness, widening of eyes and shakiness of the hand when faced with sudden fear or other stressful situation.

What are adrenal tumors

Tumors of the adrenal glands arise from the cortex or the medulla part of the adrenal gland.
Adrenal tumors commonly present because symptoms from excess secretion of hormones by the tumor.

The tumors from the adrenal cortex produce excess secretion of steroid hormones and aldosterone and tumors from the adrenal medulla produce excessive amounts of catecholamines.

Adrenal tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer). Often this separation is difficult to make and long term close follow up is necessary after removal to detect recurrences early in patients who have adrenal cancer.