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What Is a Renal Adenoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 05 July 2014
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A renal adenoma is a benign solid tumor in or around the kidneys, arising in glandular tissue. The incidence of these growths in the general population is not known, as they often go undiagnosed and may only be noted incidentally on autopsy findings in patients who die of other conditions. Usually a doctor identifies a renal adenoma when a medical imaging study of the kidneys is requested for an unrelated reason, and the growth appears as a finding on that study.

This type of growth tends to be slow, although there is a potential for differentiation into an aggressive and cancerous tumor. Superficially, renal adenomas can look like renal cell carcinoma, a malignancy, and a doctor will usually request a biopsy to evaluate the cells under a microscope and learn more about the tumor. If the growth is an adenoma, the doctor will not recommend treatment beyond monitoring the patient for any signs of changes.

Typically, patients with this type of growth do not experience symptoms. Sometimes a renal adenoma puts pressure on the kidneys and can create urinary tract obstructions or increase the risk of infection. During evaluation for these problems, the doctor will find the renal adenoma. In the majority of patients, the growth should be asymptomatic and may go unobserved for the patient's entire life. Since autopsies are only ordered in cases where there are concerns about the circumstances of the death, it is hard to determine the frequency of this cancer from autopsy findings alone.

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If a renal adenoma starts to cause problems by growing too large or too fast, surgery to remove it is a treatment option. Doctors can also watch the growth for signs it is turning malignant, and could consider chemotherapy or radiation as additional treatment options. Noninvasive treatment approaches are usually preferred because the risks for the patient are much lower. Undergoing surgery to remove a renal adenoma can be ill-advised if the growth is not causing any health problems, as the patient will be exposed to risks of infection, adverse reaction to anesthesia, and kidney damage.

A patient with a renal adenoma should make sure the growth, and as much information as possible, is part of her chart. If another doctor identifies the growth, he can consult the patient's chart to see whether the growth is growing or is a cause for concern. Patients may also want to bring it up with emergency medical personnel to make them aware of the growth, as it might surprise them in medical imaging studies or surgery, and it can be helpful to know that the patient is aware and monitoring it with the assistance of a doctor.

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