The adrenal glands are located just above the kidneys and consist of the cortex/outer layer and the medulla/inner layer. Both of these glands exist to produce hormones, and are often regulated by stress; both function separately. Adrenal cancer is a rare urological cancer that originates in the adrenal glands and reportedly strikes under 500 Americans per year. While the majority of all tumors found in the adrenal glands turns out to be benign and requires no treatment, a small percentage of these tumors are cancerous. Most often, adrenal cancer will be found because of the symptoms it creates. Most of the symptoms of adrenal cancer are similar to hormonal imbalances.
The most common type of cancer found in the adrenals glands is adrenocortical carcinoma. Below is a list of all types of adrenal cancers:
- Adrenocortical Carcinoma—This is the most common form of adrenal cancer. Found in the adrenal cortex, this cancer is treatable and most often produces symptoms similar to an increased hormone production including headaches, sweating, thirst, amenorrhea and abdominal pain.
- Pheochromocytoma—This form of adrenal cancer is very rare. It often strikes young adults in their 30’s and 40’s and results when too much epinephrine and norepinephrine are released into the body. These are the hormones that control the heart rate, blood pressure and one’s metabolism. Symptoms of this adrenal cancer include abdominal pain, chest pain, sweating, weight loss, rapid heart rate, and fever. Episodes of the symptoms may occur at 15-20 minutes each time they are experienced.
- Neuroblastoma—This is the third type of adrenal cancer and often appears in children and infants. Neuroblastoma develops in the adrenal medulla area above the kidney and will usually attack undeveloped nerve cells. Many children will complain of intense abdominal and stomach aches, as well as bone and joint pain.
While Adrenal cancers are rare, they are treatable through surgery to remove the adrenal gland using a wide array of techniques including posterior surgery (using an incision in the back, just above the kidneys), transabdominal surgery (using an incision through the abdomen), and laparoscopic adrenalectomy. Most of the adrenal cancers diagnosed can be removed using this third method, which involves a less-invasive technique where a fiber optic scope is inserted through a tiny incision in the abdominal cavity.
Radiation and chemotherapy treatment are also used in certain cases where adrenal tumors are of a significant size. These are most often utilized in adrenal cancers that have begun to spread.
For additional information on adrenal cancer, please contact North Dallas Urology Associates. To schedule an appointment at our Plano, Richardson and Frisco locations, call 972.612.8037. To schedule an appointment at our McKinney location, call 972.548.8195.