Adrenal gland cancer is a form of cancer which usually affects adrenals (tiny glands which sit above each kidney). The kidneys are situated inside the upper abdomen. The tumor usually develops in the outer part of the adrenal gland called the cortex. These hormones are called steroids and produce cortisol (hormone made in the adrenal gland) and sex hormones.
Types of Adrenal Tumors:
- Cancer in the outer part of the adrenal gland like adrenocortical carcinoma.
- Neuroblastoma (usually affects children).
- An extremely rare form of tumor called pheochromocytoma.
Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Cancer:
- Low levels of potassium
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks and anxiety can also occur
- Throbbing sensation in the heart
- Immense headache
- Excessive amount of sweating
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Extreme fluctuation in blood sugar levels (diabetes)
- Weight loss or weight gain for no reason.
- Weakness and feelings of fatigue
- Hair loss
- Some changes in the genitalia.
- Unusual occurrence of acne.
- Changes in sex drive (libido).
Treatments of Adrenal Gland Cancer:
- Surgery: This option can be considered in extreme cases. Surgery usually involves surgically removing the tumors. If the tumor is smaller than 5 cm, it might not be cancerous or dangerous. In this case a laparoscopic surgery is suggested.
- Hormone Therapy: Adrenal glands might produce excess hormones during other treatments for curing adrenal gland cancer. The doctor might suggest drugs like metyrapone, streptozotocin, metyrosine and spironolactone to maintain your hormone levels.
- Chemotherapy: This is the most common form of treatment to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy stops the cells ability to divide and grow thus destroying the cancer cells. During chemotherapy a patient is given a combination of different drugs at a time. The amount of adrenocorticoids which is produced by the adrenal glands during adrenal cancer is greatly reduced. The side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, risk of infection, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea and fatigue. If you wish to discuss any specific problem, you can consult an endocrinologist.