The adrenal glands sit above the kidneys, one on each side of the body. They make several hormones important for normal body function. An adrenal nodule is a growth in the adrenal gland. Adrenal nodules are not uncommon. By 70 years of age, up to 7% of people have a nodule in the adrenal gland.
Most of these nodules do not cause any harm and can be left alone. However, about 10% of the time, the nodule can make too much hormone and cause problems in the body. If the nodule is over 1 cm, blood work is recommended to see if the nodule is making excess hormones.
Imaging studies such as CT or MRI are recommended at 6, 12 and 24 months after the nodule is first seen.
Nodules less than 3 cm that do not make extra hormones are not likely to make extra hormones on repeat testing. However, 20% of nodules larger than 3 cm can show excess hormone production on repeat testing. Therefore, some experts recommend blood work every year for three to four years for nodules larger than 3 cm.
Very rarely, the nodule can be cancerous. Removal is recommended for nodules over 6 cm, or over 4 cm in young, healthy patients.
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