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Surgery. 2001 Dec;130(6):1060-7.

Evaluation and surgical resection of adrenal masses in patients with a history of extra-adrenal malignancy.

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Department of Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Tex. 77030, USA.



Adrenal abnormalities are often identified on imaging studies performed during the staging of patients presenting with a new malignancy or restaging of patients with a history of a malignancy.


We reviewed the records of patients who underwent surgical resection of an adrenal mass identified in the setting of previously or newly diagnosed extra-adrenal malignancy.


Eighty-one patients with an adrenal mass and recently diagnosed malignancy (n = 24) or history of a malignancy (n = 57) underwent adrenalectomy. In 42 patients (52%) the adrenal mass was a metastasis. In 39 patients (48%) the adrenal mass was an additional primary adrenal tumor process: 19 pheochromocytomas, (14 syndrome-associated, 5 sporadic), 13 cortical adenomas, 3 adrenocortical carcinomas, 2 ganglioneuromas, and 2 cases of nodular hyperplasia.


In this series nearly half of the patients with cancer and an adrenal mass had adrenal pathologic condition independent of their primary malignancy. Despite the presence of a newly diagnosed malignancy or history of malignancy, all patients with an adrenal mass should undergo a standard hormone evaluation to confirm that the mass is not a functional neoplasm. An assumption that the adrenal mass is metastatic disease will be wrong in up to 50% of such patients.

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