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Adrenal Cancer

Cancer Type

What is Adrenal Cancer?

One or both of the tiny, triangular glands (called adrenal glands) that sit atop your kidneys can develop into the uncommon illness known as adrenal cancer. Almost all of your body's tissues and organs receive instructions from the hormones the adrenal glands generate. People of all ages are affected by adrenal cancer, sometimes referred to as adrenocortical cancer. However, those in their 40s and 50s, as well as young children, are the most likely to be affected. Most growths in the adrenal glands are benign (non-cancerous). Benign adrenal tumors can also arise, including adenoma and pheochromocytoma.

If adrenal cancer is discovered early, there may be a chance for recovery. However, there is less chance of a cure if the cancer has spread to the adrenal glands. The disease's progression or recurrence can be prevented with treatment. Medica's oncology department has over 30 years of combined clinical excellence, which allows them to specialize in offering top-notch cancer treatment. With the assistance of a group of exceptionally talented reconstructive surgeons and the most recent advancements in cancer treatment technologies, our oncologists and onco-surgeons treat every patient, adult and pediatric, comprehensively and using a multidisciplinary approach to treat all kinds and forms of cancer.

Types Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer can be classified into three types:

This is the most frequent type of adrenal cancer, also known as adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) or adrenal cortex cancer. It normally starts in the cortex’s outer layer and isn’t noticed until the tumor has become rather large. This type of cancer is frequently diagnosed after the start of symptoms, such as pain or a feeling of fullness, which leads to weight loss. Excess hormones produced by adrenocortical carcinomas can lead to weight gain, facial hair growth, and early puberty. It is commonly thought that an adrenal tumor greater than 5 to 6 centimeters is cancerous.

This type of adrenal cancer affects infants and children under the age of ten and is found in developing nerve cells of the medulla. Early detection is achievable due to the unique nature of the cells. However, because the cells can spread swiftly, it may be difficult to establish the source in some cases. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every three neuroblastomas starts in the adrenal glands.

This type of adrenal cancer develops in the medulla’s core region and is usually caused by adrenaline-producing cells. Adrenaline aids in the regulation of vital body functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. This sort of tumor can cause high blood pressure, profuse sweating, a racing heart, and anxiety.


The following are some of the signs and symptoms of adrenal cancer:

  • Unintended Weight Loss and Weight Gain
  • Muscle Atrophy or Deterioration
  • Pink/Purple Colored Stretch Marks
  • Excess Facial Hair
  • Irregular Periods
  • Loss of Head Hair
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal Bloating
  • Backache
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite


The cause of adrenal cancer is unknown.

Cancer arises when something modifies (mutates) the DNA of an adrenal gland cell. A cell's instructions on what to perform are encoded in its DNA. A mutation can give a cell instructions to grow out of control and to survive while healthy cells would perish. When the abnormal cells group together, a tumor is created. Metastasis is the division of tumor cells into separate cells that go to different parts of the body.

Other Risk Factors

People with genetic disorders that enhance the risk of various cancers are more likely to develop adrenal cancer. Among the hereditary syndromes are:

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Carney complex


The stage and course of treatment for adrenal cancer are determined by the size of the tumor and the extent of disease dissemination. Stages of adrenal cancer are categorized as follows:

  • Stage I: Stage I refers to a tumor that is only in the adrenal gland and is 5 cm or less in size.
  • Stage II: At this stage, the tumor is limited to the adrenal gland and measures more than 5 cm.
  • Stage III: At this stage, the tumor might be of any size and has moved to the lymph nodes or fat around the adrenal gland.
  • Stage IV: By this point, the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes close to the adrenal gland, the fat, or the organs. Additionally, the cancer may have spread to different bodily parts. Adrenocortical carcinoma frequently spreads to the lung, liver, bones, and peritoneum (the tissue that borders the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen).


The prognosis for head and neck cancer is favorable if detected early. Your doctor may conduct a physical examination and order a diagnostic test while diagnosing you.

The following tests and methods are used to diagnose adrenal cancer:

  • Blood & Urine Tests : Tests on the blood and urine can reveal abnormal levels of hormones produced by the adrenal glands, including cortisol, aldosterone, and androgens.
  • Imaging Tests : Your doctor may order CT, MRI, or PET scans to help you understand any growths on your adrenal glands and to check if the cancer has spread to other areas of your body like your liver or lungs.
  • Lab Analysis : The lab will examine your adrenal gland. Your doctor might recommend the removal of the affected adrenal gland if they think you have adrenal cancer. The gland is examined in a lab by a physician who specializes in studying body tissues (pathologist). You can find out which cells are involved in your cancer and whether you have it or not with this test.


The most typical method of treating adrenal cancer is to remove the entire tumor surgically. To prevent the cancer from coming back, alternative treatments may be used if surgery is not an option.