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Clinical presentation and evaluation of adrenocortical tumors

André Lacroix, MD
Section Editor
Lynnette K Nieman, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Martin, MD


Unilateral tumors or masses of the adrenal gland are common. They are categorized as either functional (hormone-secreting) or silent and as either benign or malignant.

The majority of adrenocortical tumors are benign, nonfunctioning adenomas that are discovered incidentally on abdominal imaging studies (adrenal incidentalomas). (See "The adrenal incidentaloma".)

Others are benign, hormone-secreting adenomas that cause Cushing's syndrome, primary aldosteronism, or, much less commonly, virilization.

Adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs) are rare, often aggressive tumors that may be functional and cause Cushing's syndrome and/or virilization or nonfunctional and present as an abdominal mass or an incidental finding.

Pheochromocytomas are catecholamine-secreting tumors that arise from chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla. They may be benign or malignant. These are discussed separately. (See "Treatment of pheochromocytoma in adults".)


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