Adrenal Cancers

What are adrenal cancers?

When abnormal cells either are formed in or have metasized to the adrenal glands, it is called adrenal cancer. The adrenal glands are located above each kidney. Adrenal cancer usually appears as a tumor and forms in the adrenal cortex, which is the outermost layer of adrenal glands. The adrenal cortex makes certain hormones that regulate functions of the body. Most of the time cancer found in the adrenal glands did not originate there but started in a different organ. Cancers that often spread to adrenal glands includes lung cancers, melanomas, and breast cancers.

What are the symptoms of adrenal cancer?

Adrenal cancer symptoms might not seem serious at first but if you are concerned about any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be the result of other conditions, not just adrenal cancer.

  • A fever
  • A noticeable lump in the abdomen
  • A persistent pain
  • Unexplained weight-loss
  • A feeling of fullness

What are the risk factors and causes of adrenal cancers?

Lifestyle and environment factors like diet, smoking, and sedentary habits can increase a person's risk for developing cancer. Although most adrenal cancers are not the result of a genetic condition, this can be the case when children develop adrenal cancer. There are several syndromes that can increase a person's risk for developing adrenal cancer including Li-Fraumeni, Beckwith-Wiedemann, Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN1), and Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

How is adrenal cancer diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose adrenal cancer, a physician will look into your medical history, your family's medical history, and run several diagnostic tests including imaging tests like a chest x-ray and ultrasound. Testing hormone levels is an important part of diagnosing adrenal cancer, so your physician will likely take urine and blood samples to screen for abnormal levels of cortisol, aldosterone, androgen, and estrogen.

The treatment plan your doctors and specialists design to fight your adrenal cancer will take into consideration the type and stage of your cancer, your lifestyle, and other factors. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other drugs will likely be a part of your cancer treatment plan.