The Close Correlation Between Adrenal Tumor Symptoms and the Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

The adrenal glands may exhibit some adrenal tumor symptomsAdrenal tumor symptoms can be much like most of the symptoms experienced when suffering from adrenal fatigue. As the name indicates, these tumors are present in the adrenal glands, the two small, walnut-sized organs that are each situated on top of your kidneys. Your adrenals, as part of your endocrine system, play an important role in your body’s instant response to stress of any kind. This automatic, instant response is referred to as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response.

Common adrenal tumor symptoms include:

  • Changes in your sex drive
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or weight loss that has no explanation
  • High blood pressure
  • Lower than normal potassium levels
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Feelings of weakness
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Acne
  • Genital changes

Please note, however, that each person may present with different adrenal tumor symptoms. Others, on the other hand, may present with no symptoms at all. Each person is affected differently. All these symptoms have one thing in common, however – they are all the result of a hormonal imbalance in the hormones that are produced by the adrenals. These hormones include cortisol, aldosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), norepinephrine, and epinephrine.

Adrenal Tumors

Nobody can explain with 100% accuracy why adrenal tumors occur. What is known is that a number of factors can contribute towards their development and growth. Where these tumors are cancerous, i.e. malignant, however, they could be associated with radiation, exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, and in some cases, you may be genetically predisposed. The latter is extremely rare. Adrenal tumors could also be the result of a malignant cancer spreading to the adrenals from elsewhere. An example of this is lung cancer spreading through the body, reaching the adrenals, and forming malignant adrenal tumors. Generally speaking, though, a tumor is the result of normal cells growing out of control and forming a mass. This mass, or tumor, may be either benign or malignant in nature. While the former may not be cancerous, it may continue growing, resulting in a number of varying symptoms. A malignant tumor, on the other hand, has the ability to spread to other parts of your body.

An adrenal gland tumor can function as one of the components of your endocrine system and give off hormones. While they mostly produce only one type of hormone, they have the ability to produce more. Where this type of tumor gives off hormones, it is called a functioning tumor. Those that produce no hormones are referred to as non-functioning tumors. The hormones referred to here control numerous body functions, including metabolism, reproduction, sleep, hunger, and growth.

The adrenal tumors symptoms presented depends on a number of factors, like the hormone type which is produced in excess, whether it is a functioning or non-functioning tumor, and whether the tumor started in the adrenal gland or has spread to this area from elsewhere.

Adrenal Tumor Symptoms According to Tumor Type

In this section, we are only going to look at the different adrenal tumors that start in the adrenal glands themselves.


This tumor is found in the adrenal cortex. It is not malignant and nonfunctioning. It is also referred to as adrenocortical adenoma and usually has no adrenal tumor symptoms. This type of tumor, if small, seldom needs any kind of action taken. Adenoma is the most common type of adrenal tumor.

Adrenocortical carcinoma

This is an extremely rare tumor but is the most common type of cancerous tumor associated with the adrenal glands. Also referred to as adrenal cortical carcinoma, this tumor usually starts out in your adrenal cortex, and can be either functioning or nonfunctioning. This type of tumor, if the latter, is able to produce more than one type of hormone. Amongst the possible hormones are included cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. Possible adrenal tumor symptoms include, muscle weakness, high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, voice deepening and swelling of sex organs, weight gain around the face, neck, and stomach area, balding, the occurrence of fine hair growth on face, arms, and upper back, a lowered libido or impotence (the latter in men), and irregular menstrual flow or vaginal bleeding (in post-menopausal women).


This usually affects children and may start in the adrenal medulla. The possible adrenal tumor symptoms include the following:

  • Weight loss
  • A painless lump or swelling in the neck or abdomen
  • An extended stomach
  • Bowel or urination issues
  • Bumps/lumps manifested on the skin that are blueish in color
  • ‘Bulging’ eyes or bruising around the eye area
  • Smaller than normal pupils and eyelids that tend to droop
  • Difficulty eating with the child insisting he/she is full
  • Breathing or swallowing issues


This type of tumor usually starts within the adrenal medulla. It can develop in adults of any age. The most common adrenal tumor symptoms associated with Pheochromocytoma includes:

  • Paleness
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Sweat issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath

When looking at these different adrenal tumor symptoms, you cannot help but mark their similarity to those encountered by sufferers of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This is because the imbalance in hormones experienced may be extremely similar to that encountered during AFS, resulting in similar symptoms. The only real difference may be that one can do something to combat AFS. That is not to say that those with adrenal tumor symptoms may not have some measure of relief if following the same protocol as with AFS, however.

Conventional medicine addresses adrenal tumor symptoms using a multi-pronged approach and may include such aspects as genetic testing to discern whether the cause of the tumor is due to an inherited genetic anomaly, surgery to remove the tumor, hormone therapy, and in some cases even chemotherapy. Much has been said about the effectiveness and symptoms produced by the latter in recent years.

Hormone System Disruption

Adrenal tumor symptoms can be reduced by using techniques to relieve stressYour endocrine system governs your body’s hormone output. But the whole process starts in the brain’s hypothalamus, as part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Stress is perceived by the hypothalamus which sends chemical messengers to the pituitary gland which then, in turn, sends messengers to the adrenals. The result is the increased production of certain hormones, while others see a decrease. This is because all functions deemed not essential for immediate life are either temporarily scaled down or switched off.

Persistent stress, on the other hand, could have far-reaching repercussions, especially as far as hormone production and function are concerned, because this imbalance with regards to hormone production will persist. The result is a cascading effect on all body systems governed by your hormones, including brain function, thyroid function, and metabolism. A myriad of diverse and seemingly unrelated symptoms may then present themselves, as your adrenals work harder to produce more cortisol and as a result, start to wear themselves out. This state of affairs is usually seen in the latter stages of AFS. One of the results is the adrenals’ inability to produce even normal levels of cortisol. While you may think that your body producing less cortisol is a good thing, however, the reverse is true, as low cortisol levels present their own set of debilitating symptoms.

Common symptoms associated with the various stages of AFS and a hormone imbalance include, amongst very many others:

  • Thyroid issues
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Fertility problems
  • PMS
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Constant fatigue
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Problems with your bowels, including IBS, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals

The hormones in your body are all interrelated in some form or other, and often depend on each other in order for your body to function correctly. As you progress towards the last stages of AFS, however, and your cortisol levels fall drastically, you may find that your body may downscale on the amount of cortisol it needs until such time as it preserves what it has to attend to only the most essential bodily functions. Paradoxically, this may mean that your cortisol output is reduced even more. Your body may end up not being able to tolerate any form of nutritional support, toxic metabolites might accumulate.This, however, is an extreme case scenario, with most people with AFS being able to make certain concrete lifestyle changes that will help support their adrenals and thus their health.

In Closing

The benefits of relaxing should not be ignore when considering options for reducing adrenal tumor symptomsPeople tend to live in a state of hindsight, saying, “if only I had not done A, B, or C, then D, E, and F would not have happened.” By changing your lifestyle and eating habits now. If already suffering from adrenal fatigue, the changes you make today could see a vast improvement in your future health. And those who are experiencing adrenal tumor symptoms, you must go to your doctor to make sure you get those tumors taken care of. However if they don’t find anything and you still continue to have the same symptoms, do consider employing the many AFS strategies as described on the Dr. Lam website. These strategies may not only give you some measure of relief but contribute to your healing process as well.

© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Although adrenal tumor symptoms are very similar to that of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, the occurrence of adrenal cancer in any form is relatively rare. If you are in doubt, however, do consider consulting a qualified professional on the matter who will be able to assist you with appropriate testing.

The adrenal glands may exhibit some adrenal tumor symptoms
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Hello Dr. Lam -
Thank you kindly for this speedy and clear response. I can’t thank you enough and wish there were more doctors like you. It is people like you who prove that we still remain the noblest of professions.
Thank you again for your comprehensive explanation and a game plan - deeply appreciated.