Adrenal Tumors

Urologists at the University of Chicago specialize in the latest open and laparoscopic surgical techniques to treat adrenal tumors. In combination with colleagues in medical oncology and the Cancer Research Center, we offer a comprehensive and diverse option of therapies.

Adrenal cancer is extremely rare. Most adrenal tumors are benign; however, even benign tumors can produce hormones that lead to medical and physical ailments.

These ailments can include:

  • Pheochromocytoma: This tumor can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), fast heart rate (tachycardia), flushing and sweating. Approximately 10 percent of pheochromocytomas are malignant, meaning that they can spread to other parts of the body (a process known as metastasis). An MRI scan and urine tests for adrenaline and similar hormones are the best studies to diagnose a pheochromcytoma.
  • Cushing's Disease: This disease can cause weight gain, lethargy (tiredness), humping of the shoulder, blue streaks on the abdomen, acne and facial hair. Urine and blood tests will show elevated levels of cortosol.
  • Aldosteronoma: This type of tumor can produce high blood pressure and decreased levels of potassium. Urine and blood tests are most useful for its diagnosis.

Surgical treatment for adrenal tumors usually involves an andrenalectomy, where the entire adrenal gland affected by the tumor is surgically removed. Unless the tumor is exceedingly large or invading the surrounding organs, the adrenalectomy is performed using minimally invasive, laparoscopic techniques. This is our preferred method of treatment due to lowered risk to the patient and increased patient comfort. However, if the tumor has invaded surrounding organs, open techniques may be used, depending on the location and the extent of the disease.