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Several tests are needed to make an adrenal tumor diagnosis. The process typically starts with one or more imaging scans, which allow a radiologist to look for signs of a tumor. From there, if a tumor is detected, additional lab tests can be performed to determine whether the tumor cells are malignant or benign. Blood and urine tests can also be used to detect functional adrenal tumors that are producing their own hormones.

The specific tests that may be recommended if a physician suspects an adrenal tumor diagnosis include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scans, which use X-ray technology to produce three-dimensional images of the adrenal gland
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, which use magnetic fields to produce internal images and measure the size of a tumor
  • Ultrasounds, which use sound waves to produce images of the adrenal gland
  • MIBG (metaiodobenzylguanidine) scans, in which a patient is given a dose of a chemical that mimics adrenaline and images are captured over the following two days to determine if the chemical accumulates in an adrenal tumor
  • Cortisol tests (dexamethasone-suppression tests), in which a patient is given a dose of stress hormones to determine how much cortisol his or her body produces in response (excess cortisol production can indicate a tumor)
  • Testing for each layer of the adrenal hormone function is necessary, to include adrenaline levels (plasma metanephrines), estrogens and androgens, cortisol levels, and aldosterone levels
  • 24-hour urine samples, in which a patient collects all of his or her urine for a 24-hour period and sends it to a laboratory for advanced analysis
  • Adrenal vein sampling, in which an interventional radiologist tests blood from the veins of each adrenal gland to measure hormone production
  • Biopsies (tissue tests), of an adrenal mass are rarely indicated 

Individuals who are experiencing the symptoms of an adrenal tumor can obtain a prompt and accurate diagnosis at Moffitt Cancer Center, where a comprehensive range of diagnostic and treatment services are provided in a single location. Our oncologists, diagnostic imaging professionals, lab specialists and supportive care providers seamlessly work together to give our patients the answers they deserve.

To discuss a potential adrenal tumor diagnosis or adrenal cancer stages with our expert oncologists, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. Referrals are never required.