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Adrenal Cancer

Learn about what Baptist Cancer Center offers you in terms of leading-edge adrenal cancer treatments.

Adrenal Cancer Explained

Adrenal cancer, or adrenal gland cancer, occurs when abnormal cells form or metastasize (spread) to the adrenal glands. 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 can spread to adrenal glands include lung cancers, melanomas and breast cancers.

Adrenal Cancer Treatment Options

Your doctors and specialists will design an adrenal cancer treatment plan to fight your cancer. They 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 adrenal cancer treatment plan.

The Different Types of Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal gland cancers affect people differently, depending on the type of cancer. There are three common types of adrenal cancer.

Adrenocortical Carcinoma

This is the most common type of adrenal cancer. It forms in the outer layer of the cortex and is typically discovered when the tumor grows. Adrenocortical carcinoma symptoms cause a feeling of fullness.


This rare type of adrenal tumor develops from cells the produe adrenaline and is usually noncancerous (benign). Pheochromocytoma can affect the production of hormones that help regulate blood pressure and heart rate. Some pheochromocytoma symptoms include high blood pressure and anxiety. Pheochromocytoma tests include a blood test or a 24-hour urine collection.

Adrenocortical Adenoma

This is a common, non-cancerous tumor that is found in the adrenal glands that can cause symptoms similar to malignant forms. If the growth affects glands’ production of hormones, it may require surgical removal.


This type of adrenal cancer is found in infants and children. About one in three neuroblastomas begin in the adrenal glands. Neuroblastoma cancer spreads quickly.

Learn the Symptoms and Causes

Recognizing the signs of adrenal cancer allows for timely intervention, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment and improving your quality of life.

What are adrenal cancer risk factors and causes?

Lifestyle and environmental factors such as diet, smoking and sedentary habits can increase a person's risk for developing cancer. Although most adrenal gland 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)
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Carney Complex
  • Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer Syndrome
  • Von Hippel-Lindau

What are the signs and 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
Three doctors in a professional conversation.

Related Information

Connect With a Patient Navigator

As a patient at Baptist Cancer Center, you will have access to a dedicated patient navigator who will act as your advocate and liaison between you and your health care teams. Our patient navigators are available at every step to schedule appointments, answer questions, explain the treatment process, and provide resources, education and support when you and your family need it.