Given Adrenal Symptoms, Blood Test Recommended

adrenal-glands

 

Q: My husband’s recent CT scan of his stomach and digestive system revealed that he has nodules on both adrenal glands. It was suggested that he undergo a blood test to determine whether the nodules are producing hormones.

For 21 months, he has experienced high blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety and abdominal pain. Could this be the source of his problems? If so, what course of action would you recommend?

A: The adrenal gland is responsible for the production of several essential hormones.

Tumors, or nodules, of the adrenal glands are common. They can be categorized into those that make hormones and those that don’t, and also by whether the tumors are benign or malignant.

The most common, by far, are benign, nonfunctioning tumors. These are usually discovered on an ultrasound or a CT scan obtained for some other reason.

More than 4 percent of people have an adrenal mass, and 85 percent are nonfunctional.

The symptoms that your husband has, however, raise a concern that he might have a hormone-producing tumor.

Four types of hormones are commonly produced by adrenal tumors: cortisone, aldosterone, sex hormones (estrogen or androgens) and catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine).

A cortisone-producing adrenal tumor causes Cushing’s syndrome. It usually causes weight gain, especially in the abdomen; skin changes, including striae, or “stretch marks”; high blood pressure; and a predisposition to diabetes. Anxiety and abdominal pain are uncommon.

Aldosterone raises blood pressure, so a person with a functioning adrenal tumor making aldosterone usually has high blood pressure, but the other symptoms you mention for your husband aren’t common for this type of tumor.

Adrenal tumors that make epinephrine and the related norepinephrine are called pheochromocytomas. Hypertension is almost universal with this condition, and anxiety is frequently reported.

Tumors that produce sex hormones are rare, and they are present in men with androgen excess or feminization, in the case of estrogen-secreting tumors.

Although your husband’s symptoms aren’t specific for any one condition, the combination of his symptoms and adrenal nodules concerns me.

I agree with the recommendation to look for excess amounts of hormones in the blood. This can often be achieved with a simple blood test; however, a catheter is occasionally placed in the adrenal vein to sample blood coming from the gland (and its nodule) directly.

By comparing one side against the other, doctors can determine which side might be producing excess hormones.

An endocrinologist is the expert most likely to be familiar with these conditions.

Dr. Roach answers letters only in his North America Syndicate column but provides an order form of available health newsletters at http://www.rbmamail.com. Write him at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32853-6475; or ToYour GoodHealth@med. cornell.edu.

From http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2015/07/27/given-adrenal-symptoms-blood-test-recommended.html

Narrowing in on Pituitary Tumors

0276f-pituitary-gland

 

As many as 20 percent of people may have a benign cyst or tumor in their pituitary gland. The vast majority of pituitary tumors are noncancerous, but can cause headaches and profound fatigue, and can also disrupt hormone function.

Currently, surgeons rely on radiologic images and MRIs to gather information about the size and shape of the tumor, but the resolution of such imaging technologies is limited, and additional surgeries to remove more of the tumor may be needed if a patient’s symptoms persist. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 27, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) present a new technique that could help surgeons more precisely define the locations of tumors in near real-time.

The new strategy uses a visualization technique (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging – MALDI MSI) that can analyze specific hormones, including growth hormone and prolactin, in tissue. In the newly published study, the researchers find that it’s possible to use MALDI MSI to determine the composition of such hormones in a pituitary sample in less than 30 minutes. This could give surgeons critical information to help distinguish tumor from normal gland.

“Our work is driven by a clinical need: we’ve developed a test specifically tailored for the needs of our neurosurgeon colleagues,” said corresponding author Nathalie Agar, PhD, director of the Surgical Molecular Imaging Laboratory in the Department of Neurosurgery at BWH. “A surgeon may sacrifice half of the pituitary gland in an effort to get the tumor out. Without a tool to distinguish healthy tissue from tumor, it’s hard to know in real-time if the surgery was a success. With this technology, in under 30 minutes a surgeon will be able to know if a sample contains normal pituitary tissue or a pituitary tumor.”

“Patients show up with the clinical symptoms of a pituitary tumor, but the tumor itself may not be visible on an MRI,” said co-author Edward Laws, MD, director of the Pituitary and Neuroendocrine Center at BWH. “This technique, which maps out where excess concentrations of hormone levels are located, has the potential to allow us to confirm that we’ve removed the abnormal tissue.”

“Evaluating whether a piece of pituitary tissue is abnormal can be challenging on frozen section,” said co-author Sandro Santagata, MD, PhD, of BWH’s Department of Pathology. “This approach has wonderful potential for enhancing our diagnostic capabilities. It is clearly an important step toward providing intra-operative molecular characterization of pituitary tissues.”

To test the technique, the research team analyzed hormone levels in 45 pituitary tumors and six normal pituitary gland samples, finding a distinct protein signature unique to the normal or tumor sample.

Mass spectrometry, a technique for measuring chemicals present in a sample, is currently used in the operating room to help inform clinical decisions, but up until now, the focus has been on small molecules – metabolites, fatty acids and lipids – using a different type of approach. By analyzing proteins, MALDI MSI offers a way to visualize hormone levels.

Current methods used to detect hormone levels take too long to fit the time constraints of surgical intervention. Surgeons must either remove a larger amount of potentially healthy pituitary gland or perform follow up surgery if the tumor has not been fully removed.

“We’re hoping that techniques like this one will help move the field toward more precise surgery: surgery that not only removes all of the tumor but also preserves the healthy tissue as much as possible,” said Agar.

In the next phase of their work, Agar and her colleagues plan to test out the technique in BWH’s AMIGO suite and analyze the impact of the technique on clinical decision making.

Other researchers who contributed to this study include David Calligaris, Daniel R. Feldman, Isaiah Norton, Olutayo Olubiyi, Armen N. Changelian, Revaz Machaidze, Matthew L. Vestal and Ian F. Dunn.

This work was funded in part by US National Institute of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award (1DP2OD007383-01 to N.Y.R.A.), U.S. Army Medical Research/CIMIT (2010A052245), the National Center for Image Guided Therapy grant P41RR019703, NIH K08NS064168, the Pediatric Low Grade Astrocytoma Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Brain Science Foundation and the Daniel E. Ponton fund for the Neurosciences at BWH.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital 2015 | 75 Francis Street, Boston MA 02115 | 617-732-5500

From http://www.healthcanal.com/cancers/65676-narrowing-in-on-pituitary-tumors.html

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