Adrenal gland cancers are rare cancers occuring in the endocrine tissue of the adrenals. They are characterized by overproduction of adrenal gland hormones.
Cancers of the adrenal gland are very rare. The adrenal gland is a hormone producing endocrine gland with two main parts, the cortex and the medulla. The main hormone of the adrenal cortex is cortisol and the main hormone of the adrenal medulla is epinephrine. When tumors develop in the adrenal gland, they secrete excess amounts of these hormones. A cancer that arises in the adrenal cortex is called an adrenocortical carcinoma and can produce high blood pressure, weight gain, excess body hair, weakening of the bones and diabetes. A cancer in the adrenal medulla is called a pheochromocytoma and can cause high blood pressure, headache, palpitations, and excessive perspiration. Although these cancers can happen at any age, most occur in young adults.
Causes and symptoms
It is not known what causes adrenal gland cancer, but some cases are associated with hereditary diseases. Symptoms of adrenal cancer are related to the specific hormones produced by that tumor. An adrenocortical carcinoma typically secretes high amounts of cortisol, producing Cushing's Syndrome. This syndrome produces progressive weight gain, rounding of the face, and increased blood pressure. Women can experience menstrual cycle alterations and men can experience feminization. The symptoms for pheochromocytoma include hypertension, acidosis, unexplained fever and weight loss. Because of the hormones produced by this type of tumor, anxiety is often a feature also.
Cindy L. A. Jones PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,