Adrenal Cancer

Overview

The adrenal glands are a production center for regulatory hormones such as adrenaline and cortisone. For this reason, many of the symptoms of adrenal cancer are related to hormonal imbalances resulting from tumors secreting too much or too little of a particular hormone.

A large percentage of tumors on the adrenal glands are benign. These tumors may grow very large and put pressure on nearby organs like the stomach, but they do not spread to other parts of the body. The average age of diagnosis being around age 44.

Signs & Symptoms

Benign adrenal lesions or cancerous growths in the adrenal glands, which are located at the top of the kidneys, may not produce any symptoms, however, in the event that hormone production is altered, an individual may experience one or a combination of the following:

  • Fever
  • Diabetes
  • Excess face or body hair
  • High blood pressure
  • A noticeable lump in the abdomen
  • Persistent pain (pressure of tumor on organs)
  • Feeling of “fullness” (caused by a tumor pressing against the stomach)
  • Sudden weight loss

Diagnosis & Treatment

In order to diagnose the condition, your urologist may schedule a series of imaging and lab tests, such as a CT scan to the abdomen, urine studies, or needle biopsies. The symptoms of adrenal tumors are similar to those caused by Cushing’s disease, a condition in which tumors in the pituitary gland impact adrenal gland function, or Conn’s Syndrome, a condition in which a tumor in the outer part of the adrenal gland causes excessive amounts of the hormone aldosterone. In most cases, these tumors are benign (do not spread) and the condition is treatable.

Conn’s disease (or Conn’s syndrome) is an adrenal disease caused by excessive production of the hormone aldosterone. Produced in the adrenal cortex, aldosterone is one of the steroid hormones in the mineralocorticoid family. Aldosterone is responsible for regulating electrolytes and, as in the case of Conn’s disease, when aldosterone becomes more active, sodium levels in the blood may increase and affect blood pressure. Unregulated, the increased sodium can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension). Excessively high blood pressure could be life threatening.

Cushing’s syndrome develops when a functioning adrenocortical tumor produces excess cortisol. Also produced in the adrenal cortex (the outer part of the gland), cortisol is involved in several important functions, most notably as the “stress response” hormone. Cortisol also plays a significant role in regulating blood pressure and metabolic function. Prolonged high levels of cortisol will affect how the body performs these vital tasks.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with adrenal tumors, whether benign or cancerous, there are a number of potential treatment options available to achieve a safe, normal hormone balance without interfering with daily life. At Urology Associates of Central Missouri, our exceptional team of urologists has the training and experience necessary to accurately diagnose and treat adrenal tumors with the best technology available, such as the robot-assisted surgical devices, such as the da Vinci Surgical System and will discuss all of these treatment options with you.

Robotic adrenal surgery

Remove all or part of the tumors and/or adrenal glands (adrenalectomy)

 

Medication

Maintain normal hormone levels, especially if the adrenal glands are removed. When high blood pressure or diabetes arises from adrenal gland disorders, medication to control these conditions maybe administered.

 

Chemotherapy

Destroy tumor cells and prevent further growth

 

Radiation

Destroy tumor cells with high energy x-rays
Regular monitoring: Observation of the adrenal glands when the tumors are non-cancerous and do not cause hormone imbalance