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What Is an Incidentaloma?

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  • Written By: Steven Symes
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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An incidentaloma is an incidental adenoma, or tumor, from the adrenal gland that is found by a health practitioner by mistake. When a patient has unrelated symptoms, such as abdominal pain, a physician might order the patient to receive a full-body scan, which in turn uncovers the presence of the tumor. The tumor might be benign or cancerous, leaving patients and physicians to decide what action, if any, to take with the growth.

Patients who are older are at a greater risk of developing an incidentaloma, even though they may never display any symptoms. Because the tumor may not present any health detriment, their presence is usually only discovered when a patient suffers from another health condition that involves organs in the abdomen. The patient should seek a second radiologist’s opinion about the nature of the detected growth before agreeing to invasive medical treatments.

Symptoms normally do not present themselves in a patient that has an incidentaloma, unless the growth is malignant and functional, or producing hormones that enter the rest of the body. The most common symptom of an active growth is high blood pressure. Other indications that a malignant growth is present include heart palpitations, weakness in the patient’s muscles, general anxiety without explanation and flushing or redness in the patient’s skin. Any of the symptoms may easily be blamed on other suspected or already-known health conditions facing the patient.

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Treatment of an incidentaloma can vary, depending on if a physician feels that the growth is benign and nonfunctional, or malignant and functional. Lab tests may be performed on the growth to help determine if it is malignant and functional. For patients who have a benign and nonfunctional growth, the physician may elect to make regular scans of the incidentaloma to detect whether it is growing and a threat to the patient’s health. The patient might also take regular hormone lab tests to ensure the growth has not begun producing and releasing hormones into his body.

If the patient is found to have a functional tumor, then surgery is the only option for eliminating any risk to the patient’s health. Because of the possible trauma suffered by the adrenal glands from the surgery, a patient may need to take hormonal medications until the adrenal glands return to their normal functioning state. Patients who take medication for high blood pressure may not need to take any or as much medication as before the surgery, since removing the growth can also reduce the patient’s blood pressure.

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