Adrenal Cancer

What Is Adrenal Cancer?

There are two adrenal glands, one above each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. The adrenal glands are also called the suprarenal glands.

There are two types of adrenal cancer:

  • Cancer of the adrenal cortex. This rare cancer affects cells in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. It is also called adrenocortical carcinoma. Cancer of the adrenal cortex is also called adrenocorticalcarcinoma.
  • Pheochromocytoma. This is a cancer of the adrenal medulla, the inside layer of the adrenal glands. Pheochromocytoma can also start in other parts of the body, but it most commonly occurs in the adrenal gland.

Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer expertise

Adrenal cancer is a very rare cancer that requires a multispecialty approach. We have extensive experience diagnosing and treating adrenal cancer, and work closely with you to develop an optimal treatment plan that provides the best chances for a successful outcome.

Adrenal Cancer Symptoms

Patients with adrenal cancer may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Unwanted or unexpected weight loss
  • Weakness and low potassium levels
  • Hirsutism (increased hairiness occurring mostly in women) or virilism (causes woman to develop masculine features)
  • Difficulty controlling “labile” high blood pressure (blood pressure that goes up and down in an erratic manner)
  • New onset of diabetes that is hard to control

Cancer of the adrenal cortex can cause high blood pressure, weakening of the bones, and diabetes. People with this type of adrenal cancer may experience deepening of the voice, hair growth on the face, and swelling of the sex organs or breasts. These symptoms may happen if male or female hormones are produced by the tumor.

People with pheochromocytomas may develop high blood pressure, which can cause chest pain, sweating, headaches, pounding of the heart, heart palpitations, and anxiety.

It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by many other medical problems. If a person has any of these symptoms, they should see their doctor as soon as possible.

Stage I (1) adrenal cancer

The tumor is 5 centimeters (cm) or less across and the cancer has not spread outside the adrenal gland. Five cm is about 2 inches.

Stage II (2) adrenal cancer

The tumor is larger than 5 cm (2 inches) across and the cancer has not spread outside the adrenal gland.

Stage III (3) adrenal cancer

The tumor has either grown into the fat outside the adrenal gland or has spread to neighboring lymph nodes.

Stage IV (4) adrenal cancer

The tumor has grown into the fat outside the adrenal gland and nearby lymph nodes, or it has grown into nearby organs, or it has spread to distant areas.

Recurrent adrenal cancer

Recurrent cancer means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated.