This uncommon type of cancer occurs in the adrenal glands, which lie above the kidneys and produce steroidal hormones that affect metabolism, blood pressure and the nervous system. Adrenal cancer can often be without symptoms, or with symptoms similar to those caused by excess hormone release.
More information about adrenal cancer (American Cancer Society)
What adrenal cancer is not
Adrenal cancer is not renal cancer (also called “kidney cancer” or “renal cell adenocarcinoma”), and should not be confused with other genitourinary cancers such as bladder, prostate, testicular, penile, or urethral because these cancers can have different symptoms, outlooks, and treatments.
Common types of adrenal cancers
Tumors can rarely develop in the inner part of the adrenal glands, called the medulla. They more frequently form in the outer part called the cortex. Common types of adrenal cortex tumors include:
- Adrenal adenomas - benign (non-cancerous) tumors that do not spread to other parts of the body
- Adrenocortical carcinoma - malignant or cancerous tumor
It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests (but not all of these may apply to your condition):
- Blood tests (hormonal evaluation) - A blood test measures tumor markers or hormone levels in the blood. Changes in numbers may lead to further testing.
- CT scan (computed tomography scan) - A CT scan is a series of X-ray pictures of a your adrenal glands put together by a computer to give doctors a detailed picture.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - An MRI test uses magnetic fields and radio waves to capture detailed images of your adrenal glands. During the procedure you will lie flat on a padded platform, which then slides into the center of a tube shaped MRI machine. You will not feel the magnetic fields or radio waves around you, but you will hear a loud thumping sound. You will be asked to lie very still during the procedure. The MRI technicians will work with you to help this procedure be as comfortable as possible.
Treatment often includes removal of the adrenal glands, but your full team of care providers will work closely together to review your diagnostic tests, identify the best course of treatment for you, and help you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.