What Is the Treatment for an Adrenal Cyst? (with pictures)

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.

An adrenal cyst does not often require treatment. A rare condition that is usually asymptomatic, cysts on the adrenal gland are usually discovered only incidentally. These cysts may be examined to make sure that they are not cancerous or growing too rapidly and then left alone if the doctor determines that they are causing no problems. Large cysts are often removed surgically, and a cancerous adrenal cyst will require extensive treatment that can include a number of different medications and therapies.

Occasionally an adrenal cyst may need to be biopsied.
Occasionally an adrenal cyst may need to be biopsied.

For the majority of patients, the treatment for an adrenal cyst will be conservative. A cyst that is small and causes no symptoms may be watched to see if it changes over a period of time. An initial image of the cyst may be compared to other images taken after six months or a year in order to find out if the cyst is growing. If it is not growing, a small cyst that does not cause discomfort or hormonal problems is usually left alone.

The body's two adrenal glands -- part of the endocrine system -- release hormones that help regulate metabolism, physical development and stress.
The body's two adrenal glands -- part of the endocrine system -- release hormones that help regulate metabolism, physical development and stress.

Occasionally, an adrenal cyst may look suspicious on an image or may be shown by a series of images to be growing at an unusual rate. These cysts, as well as the area around them, may be biopsied to rule out the presence of a cancerous growth. In some cases, cysts may form on the adrenal gland because of cancer in this gland or the nearby kidneys. The biopsy is a simple outpatient procedure that is used to analyze the cells of the cyst.

Symptoms of adrenal cysts may include back pain.
Symptoms of adrenal cysts may include back pain.

If cancer is found, a team of doctors will work with the patient to create an appropriate treatment plan that may include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The first step in treating a cancerous adrenal cyst is usually removing it surgically, if possible. Patients may then undergo various cancer treatments that will help keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

Blood tests will help monitor growth of adrenal cysts.
Blood tests will help monitor growth of adrenal cysts.

In rare cases, a doctor may remove an otherwise normal adrenal cyst in order to treat it. Cysts that are larger than 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) are removed because their size can interfere with the function of the adrenal gland, even if there are no noticeable symptoms yet present. A cyst of any size that causes symptoms may also be removed. If discovered incidentally during surgery, a cyst that looks suspicious may also be entirely removed to be biopsied.

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    • An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
      An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
    • Occasionally an adrenal cyst may need to be biopsied.
      Occasionally an adrenal cyst may need to be biopsied.
    • The body's two adrenal glands -- part of the endocrine system -- release hormones that help regulate metabolism, physical development and stress.
      The body's two adrenal glands -- part of the endocrine system -- release hormones that help regulate metabolism, physical development and stress.
    • Symptoms of adrenal cysts may include back pain.
      Symptoms of adrenal cysts may include back pain.
    • Blood tests will help monitor growth of adrenal cysts.
      Blood tests will help monitor growth of adrenal cysts.
    • Chemotherapy may be necessary if an adrenal cyst turns out to be cancerous.
      Chemotherapy may be necessary if an adrenal cyst turns out to be cancerous.
    • If an adrenal cyst is cancerous, radiation may be part of the treatment plan.
      If an adrenal cyst is cancerous, radiation may be part of the treatment plan.