Adrenal Cancer

1 What is Adrenal Cancer?

Adrenal cancer refers to the cancerous tumor of the adrenal glands located above each kidney.

Cancer usually affects the outer layer of the cells in the gland, called the adrenal cortex.

Adrenal glands play a very important role in many functions of the body through the production of hormones.

Adrenal cancer is more commonly found in the age group of 40-50 years. It is an aggressive form of cancer and may spread to other organs rapidly.

It is often diagnosed accidentally while screening for some other condition. Treating the condition early can cure adrenal cancer.

If the cancer cells spread to other organs and tissues, treatment is difficult.

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2 Symptoms

The excessive production of hormones from the adrenal glands results in the characteristic symptoms of adrenal cancer.

The cancerous tumor may press on nearby organs and tissue, leading to other types of symptoms.

In children, adrenal cancer may result in:

  • Excessive facial and pubic hair
  • Enlarged penis
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Early puberty in girls

In adult women, adrenal cancer may produce subtle systems that may be hard to detect. It can sometimes remain asymptomatic until the tumor presses against the nearby organs.

Adrenal tumors may increase the production of androgen in women, resulting in increased facial hair and deepening of the voice.

In men, adrenal cancer may lead to increased production of the female hormone estrogen, resulting in enlargement of the breasts.

Some other common symptoms of adrenal cancer are:

3 Causes

The actual cause of Adrenal cancer is not known.

Conditions that increase the risk of developing adrenal cancer include:

  • Certain syndromes like Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Polyps in the large intestine
  • Endocrine neoplasia

4 Making a Diagnosis

Medical history and physical examination are the first steps in the diagnosis of adrenal cancer.

Blood tests and urine analysis are also suggested.

Some other common tests recommended for the diagnosis include a biopsy, CT scans, PET scans, and an adrenal angiography.

5 Treatment

Starting treatment as early as possible is the best way to cure adrenal cancer.

Surgical treatment

The standard treatment for cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In some cases, doctors recommend an adrenalectomy, the surgical removal of the adrenal glands.

If cancerous cells have spread to the neighboring tissues, lymph nodes and tissues surrounding the adrenal glands may also be removed.

Radiation and chemotherapy

Radiation therapy is used to kill or stop the growth of cancerous cells.

Chemotherapy also aids in stopping the growth of the cancer cells in the glands. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other forms of therapy to treat adrenal cancer.

Alternative treatments

When the tumor cells are too large to be removed by surgery, cryoablation is suggested. With this method, the cancer cells are frozen.

Medications are also provided to prevent the excessive production of adrenal hormones, particularly in stage 3 and 4 of adrenal cancer.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Although many alternative remedies are suggested for the treatment of adrenal cancer, none of them have proven scientific evidence.

Herbal preparation methods, dietary supplements, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are attempted as alternate treatment strategies.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Following a healthy diet and exercise regimen helps to cope with the treatment effects of adrenal cancer.

Follow-up visits with the doctor are very important.

Having a supportive family also helps to cope with the condition better.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several common factors that increase the risk and affect complications of Adrenal cancer.

The excessive production of hormones may result in Cushing’s syndrome or Conn’s syndrome.

9 Related Clinical Trials