MSH Adrenal Cancer

What is Adrenal Cancer?

Adrenal cancer is a rare disease that starts in one or both of the little triangular glands on top of your kidneys (adrenal glands). Hormones produced by the adrenal glands provide instructions to practically every organ and tissue in your body. Adrenal cancer, also known as adrenocortical cancer, affects people of all ages. However, it is most likely to impact children under the age of five, as well as individuals in their 40s and 50s. The majority of growths in the adrenal glands are noncancerous (benign). Adrenal tumors that are benign, such as adenoma or pheochromocytoma, can also occur.

There is a potential of a cure if adrenal cancer is detected early. However, if the cancer has gone beyond the adrenal glands, it is less likely to be cured. Treatment can be used to stop the progression or recurrence of the disease. The oncology department at Medica specializes at providing world-class cancer treatment, thanks to their combined clinical excellence of more than 30 years. Our oncologists and onco-surgeons are supported by the latest cancer treatment technologies as well as a team of highly skilled reconstructive surgeons who provide extensive treatment to all of our patients, both adults and children, with a multidisciplinary approach to treating all types and forms of cancer.

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Types

Adrenal cancer can be classified into three types:

Adrenocortical Carcinoma

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.

Neuroblastoma

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.

Pheochromocytoma

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.

Symptoms

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
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Causes

The cause of adrenal cancer is unknown.

When anything causes changes (mutations) in the DNA of an adrenal gland cell, cancer develops. The DNA of a cell includes the instructions that tell it what to do. Mutations can instruct a cell to grow uncontrollably and to live while healthy cells would die. The aberrant cells clump together and form a tumor as a result. Tumor cells can break off and spread to other places of the body (metastasize).

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
Stages

The size of the tumor and how far the disease has spread determine the stage and treatment of adrenal cancer. Adrenal cancer is classified into the following stages:

Stage I:A tumor that is 5 cm or smaller and only located in the adrenal gland is classified as stage I.

Stage II: The tumor is greater than 5 cm and is only found in the adrenal gland in this stage.

Stage III: The tumor can be any size and have migrated to the fat or lymph nodes near the adrenal gland in this stage.

Stage IV: At this stage, the tumor has progressed to the fat or organs, as well as to lymph nodes near the adrenal gland. The cancer can also have spread to various areas of the body The lung, liver, bones, and peritoneum are all common sites for adrenocortical carcinoma to spread (the tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen).

Diagnosis

If diagnosed in the early stages, head and neck cancer have a good outcome. During diagnosis, your physician may order a diagnostic test and perform a physical examination.

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

  • Blood & Urine Tests: Unusual levels of hormones generated by the adrenal glands, such as cortisol, aldosterone, and androgens, may be discovered through blood and urine tests.
  • Imaging Tests: To better understand any growths on your adrenal glands and to see if cancer has spread to other parts of your body, such as your lungs or liver, your doctor may order CT, MRI, or PET scans.
  • Lab Analysis: Your adrenal gland will be examined in the lab. If your doctor suspects you have adrenal cancer, he or she may suggest that the afflicted adrenal gland be removed. A doctor who studies bodily tissues examines the gland in a laboratory (pathologist). This test can determine whether or not you have cancer and which cells are implicated.
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Treatment

The most common treatment approach for adrenal cancer is surgery to remove the entire tumor. If surgery isn’t a possibility, other treatments may be done to keep the cancer from returning.

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