According to guidelines released in 2002 by the National Institute of Health, patients with adrenal tumors of less than 4 centimeters have only a 2 to 3 percent risk of developing cancer, states the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. Doctors recommend keeping such tumors under regular observation.
Research indicates that most adrenal tumors do not grow or become hyperfunctional, states the AAES. Tumors that are overproducing adrenal hormones should be removed, along with the adrenal gland itself. In cases of small, non-functional tumors, repeated CAT scans performed every 6 to 12 months and hormone testing every 12 months for up to 5 years are recommended.
Adrenal incidentalomas, or tumors on the adrenal gland, have been discovered with increasing frequency because of developments in X-ray technology, reports the AAES. These tumors typically do not produce any symptoms and are discovered incidentally during imaging tests such as CAT scans or MRIs conducted for reasons unrelated to adrenal functioning or disease. Adrenal tumors are one of the most common tumors discovered during autopsy examinations. About 7 percent of the general population has been found to have adrenal tumors by age 70. Only a small percentage of adrenal tumors ever cause health problems, but in rare cases adrenal incidentalomas are responsible for serious conditions.