What is adrenal cancer?

Adrenal cancer is a rare malignancy. In the United States, there are only about 500 new cases each year. At diagnosis, most individuals are between 30 and 50 years of age or are younger than 5 years of age (Source: OncoLink).

The causes of adrenal cancer are not known, but it is more likely to occur in the cortex, the outer portion of the adrenal gland, than in the medulla, the central portion of the gland. The adrenal glands produce several hormones, which can be produced in excess when cancer is present. Abnormal hormone levels can cause certain symptoms of adrenal cancer, but people who have early adrenal cancer may not have any symptoms at all.

If caught early, adrenal cancer has the potential to be cured with surgical treatment. Surgery may also be an option for patients whose cancer is in a later stage, but chemotherapy is commonly used in such cases. Chemotherapy can help to treat cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. Radiation therapy may also be useful.

In some cases, hormonal imbalances resulting from adrenal gland cancer can lead to an emergency situation. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for symptoms such as severe abdominal pain or headache, high fever, irregular or fast heart rate, shortness of breath, seizures, changes in level of consciousness, loss of consciousness, or anxiety.

It is important to diagnose and start treatment for adrenal cancer as soon as possible. Seek prompt medical care for symptoms such as unexpected weight gain, abnormal hair growth, irregular menstrual bleeding, easy bruising and bleeding, feeling very thirsty, frequent urination, feeling full early in a meal, and the sense of fullness or pain in the abdomen.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of adrenal cancer?

Adrenal cancer may not cause any symptoms until it has grown large enough to press on other structures in the body. When it does cause symptoms, they are usually related to overproduction of hormones. The adrenal cortex, where the majority of adrenal cancers occur, produces hormones known as aldosterone, cortisol and androgens (male sex hormones). Tumors of the adrenal medulla, called pheochromocytomas, are very rare, and most are not cancerous.... Read more about adrenal cancersymptoms

CAUSES

What causes adrenal cancer?

The cause of adrenal cancer is not known, although occasionally it occurs in families and individuals who have certain syndromes that increase their risk of developing this cancer.... Read more about adrenal cancercauses

TREATMENTS

How is adrenal cancer treated?

The goal of adrenal cancer treatment is to permanently cure the cancer or to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the disease in the body, although it may recur or relapse later.... Read more about adrenal cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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