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What is Adenoma?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Adenoma are non-cancerous tumors that grow on the glands. They can develop on any glands in the body, including those in the colon, breasts, lungs, and throat. In some rare cases, they may become cancerous over time, but many are completely harmless and cause few symptoms.

The glands responsible for developing these tumors are generally used for the secretion of fluids. Called epithelial cells, these structures help the body produce sweat, saliva, breast milk, and hormones. If the epithelial cells begin to grow rapidly, the result is often a small lump. When benign, or non-cancerous, the lump is called an adenoma. In rare cases, however, the growth may be cancerous, in which case it is known as an adenocarcinoma


The exact cause of these benign growths is unknown. Some doctors believe that hormone levels and genetics may play some part in development, but these links are not yet proved. Taking certain drugs, especially hormonal birth control, may increase the risk factor for developing these growths, but this, too, is uncertain.

Like cancer, benign glandular lumps can strike any person at any age, though some types of adenoma are more common to certain groups. Women, for instance, are much more likely to develop liver growths. Older adults also are more prone to developing non-cancerous masses on the colon.


The most common symptom of a glandular growth is the appearance of a lump in the skin. Depending on the location of the tumor, this lump may be extremely small, or quite noticeable. When the growth is on internal organs or buried deep in the body's tissue, doctors may not be able to see the lump without body imaging scans, such as MRIs. Other symptoms of adenoma include hormonal fluctuations that can wreak havoc on the body. Tumors growing on the


glands, for instance, may cause the gland to produce too many thyroid hormones. This can cause thyroid disorders such as hyperthyroidism or parathyroidism, which may lead to extreme weight loss or gain, metabolic changes, and the development of



In some cases, the symptoms can be nonspecific. Lung masses, for instance, may cause very generic symptoms that are easy to confuse with a cold or common virus. Fevers, coughing, fatigue, and body aches can all be symptoms of a benign growth, but are often attributed to another cause. If a person notices a lump while experiencing these symptoms, he or she may want to talk to a doctor.


Doctors may use a variety of tests to diagnose adenoma. If masses are suspected on internal organs, doctors usually order body image scans to locate the tumors. Colon adenoma are often detected by performing a


, which uses a flexible tube with a small camera attached to take pictures of the intestines and colon. If lumps are found, doctors take a small sample of the tissue to check for signs of cancer. Doctors may also perform blood and urine tests, seeking unusual hormone levels that indicate a growth on a hormonal gland.


Since some adenoma can eventually mutate into adenocarcinoma, doctors often recommend having the benign lumps removed. Growths near the skin's surface may be removed with a simple, outpatient surgery. Internal growths may require general anethesia and a more complex surgery, and can have a recovery period of several days or weeks. If the site of the mass is a hormone-secreting gland, doctors may try using hormone-balancing medications instead of surgery.

Benign vs. Malignant Growths

While both adenoma and adenocarcinoma develop as an overgrowth of cells, they are not the same thing. A major difference is that benign tumors do not spread to other organs or tissues, while malignant adenocarcinoma can. Occasionally, a mass can turn into an adenocarcinoma, even if it starts out as a benign growth of the epithelial cells. While this mutation is rare, and most benign tumors remain harmless, doctors usually suggest removing harmless them as a precaution.

Another important distinction is that the presence of benign growths is not linked to a significantly increased cancer risk. Many people spend their entire lives with small growths that cause no symptoms and never turn into adenocarcinoma. By contrast, developing a cancerous glandular growth may increase a person's risk for certain forms of the disease, such as lung and colon cancer.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon997789 — On Feb 28, 2017

After numerous CT scans, which were performed due to a mysterious undetectable hernia that pops out at least once to twice a week, I am told this is not a hernia. I don't have an answer as to what this painful 'thing' that pops out and is so painful it puts me on my back and I have to physically push it back in. I can feel it when I push it back inside me, as that is the only thing that relieves the pain. If this is not a hernia, what is it? Very frustrated!

By anon997042 — On Nov 08, 2016

What about a adrenal adenoma? I am worried that my hormones are going wacky. I am 55, passed through the worst of menopause; yet suffer daily from anxiety. They just found the adenoma doing a ct scan of my lungs as I am an ex smoker with two lung nodules. They remain unchanged every six months for the past couple of years. There are no specialists in the rural town I live in. Should I seek out a specialist?

By anon321438 — On Feb 22, 2013

Does the modification of the food products used currently contribute to these types of abnormalities?

By anon190537 — On Jun 26, 2011

I need help. I went to see a doctor, and was told I had a pituitary tumor, but another doc I saw is saying that it's not showing on the MRI. What to do?

By anon166478 — On Apr 08, 2011

My son has been diagnosed with an adenoma on his adrenal gland. it has grown half a centimeter in six months, and I really am scared about this and he is also. can anyone give us advice as we don't seem to be getting any from the hospital.

By HelenaW — On Jul 02, 2010

From some research that I have done over the last year since being diagnosed, some people with diabetes are at risk also due to the link between Glycogen Storage Disease. The contraceptive pill it seems just makes matters worse.

I don't have diabetes but was on the contraceptive for just over 15 years. Although now stopped there are no guarantees that things will get any better. My largest adenoma of the many that I have is about 8cm. I have also recently been told that there is the risk of them rupturing or turning malignant.

So who knows what the outcome will be as it is far too dangerous to operate at the moment in my case. I find the only thing to do is to stay positive and keep smiling.

By anon92972 — On Jul 01, 2010

I am a 31 year old woman diagnosed two years ago with multiple adenomas of the liver -- 28, plus sites all over the liver one of which is almost 5 cm. I am having a CT done. i was on the contraceptive pill for a very long time and i have diabetes also. i am afraid to have a child due to the risk of the adenomas getting bigger. I am also adopted and i had no medical history so i don't know if they can be inherited. I am Irish, a 31 year old woman.

By HelenaW — On Jun 12, 2010

I was diagnosed with multiple (Many - more than 10) liver adenomas inside and outside) one year ago after a spontaneous bleed. My liver specialist will do nothing because he says it is too risky, which leaves me in a no win situation. They will only do something for me as they say, "when I am on my last legs."

It appears you shouldn't get these in the country I live in. People like me are left in a very precarious position.

By anon81268 — On Apr 30, 2010

To anon 72804-I have had an emergency liver resection for a liver adenoma that had ruptured-it was over 10 cm. I had severe pain-like the worst case of indigestion.

I was bleeding internally -- I almost died due to so much blood loss.

After the emergency surgery, I had to go back for a second liver resection, because I have multiple liver adenomas. I still have some on my liver, and am watched very closely, with MRIs every six months. It is a very rare condition.

I would suggest going to a liver surgeon, and a liver specialist. It is better to get it removed than for it to rupture.

By anon72804 — On Mar 24, 2010

my doctor told me i have a 4 cm adenoma in my liver and told me it's not what is causing my pain and that he will follow up with me in four months. Is this something i should wait for? all research i have done says it needs to be removed because it could cause death. Should i get a second opinion?

By anon72614 — On Mar 23, 2010

It was the spring 2009 when I was diagnosed with an adenoma on my liver, and I was 28 years old. I was completely shocked by this since I had no signs or symptoms of anything wrong with my health.

The only way that we (my husband and I) found out about it was because we started the fall of 2008 to get a yearly health screen done. I had elevated ALK levels. After putting off the results of the blood work from that fall I finally went in to get it checked out. And that is when everything started to spin out of control.

The day after I received an ultrasound at my local hospital they called me at work saying that they referred me to a specialist and he moved his schedule around to fit me in early the next morning. The shock of it all dumbfounded me completely. I was told that I had a 9cm mass on my liver. After talking with my husband we decided that removal was the only option for us. We had just gotten married the summer before and want to have children.

We set up surgery for the following month. It has been almost a year since I under went surgery and we are so happy that we made that decision. The only thing that scares me now is getting pregnant.

Is there any chance of complications because of the history of the adenoma? How does it affect the muscles and scar that I now have? These are few questions that I have that no one seems to be able to give me answers for.

By anon42545 — On Aug 21, 2009

I was diagnosed with a liver adenoma about 3 years ago. Since I wanted to have kids I decided to have it removed with a liver resection. I had a laparoscopic resection done in 20007 and have had no issues since then. I got pregnant in late 2007 and other than a few pains in my side, which is to be expected with all the nerves healing, I had no other issues. I had a follow up CT scan done after my baby was born in 2008 and my surgeon said that everything looked perfect with my liver, other than the line through it where they cut the adenoma out and stitched it back up. I highly recommend having the resection done, it gave me so much peace of mind throughout my pregnancy and later in life as well.

By anon28259 — On Mar 13, 2009

I have been diagnosed with a parathyroid adenoma. Blood tests have shown elevated levels of parathyroid hormone and serum calcium. Is an operation the only solution?

By kaydup2003 — On Nov 12, 2008

I did a colonoscopy last year and was told they found Polyps that was removed. My question is: will the polyps develop again? or its removal ends its emergence?

By anon17873 — On Sep 09, 2008

To anon 16266 I also have a possible liver adenoma- three radiologists are unsure of the diagnosis, so going for a fourth opinion!- the consultant says that he always recommends resection of adenomas in women who wish to have a baby because of the hormones in pregnancy affecting the adenoma and the risk of hemorrhage- I would ask for referral to a liver specialist for advice and treatment.

By anon16266 — On Aug 02, 2008

i'm a 44 years old and have been diagnosed more than a year ago with an adenoma on my liver about 3.8 cm. What is the best thing for me to do, since i've learned that there is a possibility that it can turn malignant? I also wanted to have another baby. will it hinder my desire to have a baby because of the estrogen that it will produce when I get pregnant? Please help me as I am desperate to know your advice.

By Enid — On Jul 03, 2008

I am wondering what the outcome would be for an 81 year-old male, diagnosed with an Adenoma. I realize that there are many factors, however the Path. report stated Adenoma....I believe in the Colon...

By pixiedust — On Jun 10, 2008

They often remove adenomas when conducting colonoscopies. Since adenomas can develop into cancer, removing the adenoma reduces the chances of developing colon cancer. A study (by Drs. Neugut and Rundle at the Mailman School of Public Health) showed that people in their 40s had the same amount of adenomas as people in their 50s. I don't think the study group was statistically significant, but further research may support the practice of getting colonoscopies earlier than currently suggested to remove these adenomas earlier on and potentially reduce the incidence of colon cancer.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
Learn more
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