Donate to Adrenal Tumors Research, Patient Care and Education

Adrenal tumors are tumors that grow on the adrenal glands. These tumors greatly alter the number of hormones that the adrenal glands produce. Your donation will allow Northwestern Medicine to continue researching and creating effective treatments for patients dealing with adrenal tumors.

Adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and produce hormones that the body uses every day including:

  • Cortisol: Regulates metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • Corticosterone: Regulates inflammatory responses and the immune system
  • Aldosterone: This hormone regulates potassium, sodium, blood pressure and blood volume
  • Epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine: These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow
  • Androgen: determines the amount of testosterone and estrogen

All of these hormones have important roles and functions in a healthy body. The disruption of any of these hormones can cause various ailments or syndromes depending on which hormone the tumor is targeting.

Tumors that produce cortisol produce too much of the hormone, which leads to Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s syndrome can cause weight gain, obesity, stretch marks, rashes, bruising, muscle weakness, and high blood pressure.

Aldosterone-producing tumors cause high blood pressure, water retention and low potassium. If a single tumor is affecting one adrenal gland, surgery is used to remove the tumor. Patients with tumors affecting both adrenal glands have prescribed a course of medications for treatment. Donating to Northwestern Memorial Foundation helps our scientists improve medications that regulate adrenal function.

Pheochromocytomas are adrenal tumors produce excess epinephrine and norepinephrine. This leads to high blood pressure, rapid pulse, palpitations, nausea, and sweating.

Virilizing and feminizing are uncommon but do occur in some cases. These tumors produce excess testosterone or estrogen. Virilizing tumors can cause increased hair growth, acne, and muscle mass, as well as an irregular menstrual cycle in women. Feminizing tumors often lead to increased breast tissue and impotence in men.

Northwestern Medicine is able to diagnose these tumors in a variety of ways. Physicians on the medical staff diagnose adrenal tumors through blood and urine tests. Additionally, ways to diagnose these tumors is to employ computed tomography (CT) scans, MRI scans and other state-of-the-art techniques, such as selective venous catheterization.

Treatment options vary but are undertaken with careful consideration by a patient’s medical team. Fortunately, most of these tumors are not cancerous. Many adrenal tumors can be treated by surgically removing the adrenal gland. If the patient is not well enough to be a candidate for surgery, a course of medication will be prescribed to combat the tumor. Most adrenal surgeries are conducted with minimally invasive technology.

Adrenal Tumors Research, Patient Care and Education Donation

While many adrenal tumors are not cancerous, they can still cause serious health issues. More research into adrenal tumors is needed to determine the cause and to develop more effective treatment plans. A donation to Northwestern Memorial Foundation allows scientists to continue to explore how these tumors form and operate. This research, in turn, gives physicians and physicians the opportunity to design treatment plans that best benefit patients. Whether adrenal tumors are cancerous or not, they require careful research and treatment; your donation can make this possible.

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