Several tumor types can develop in the adrenal glands. These two triangular organs, which are situated above the kidneys, produce and release hormones into the blood. An essential part of the endocrine system, hormones regulate metabolism, sexual development and stress levels. Some adrenal tumors produce excess hormones, such as androgen, estrogen, cortisol and aldosterone, which can interfere with the body’s delicate hormonal balance. This can result in the development of symptoms like high blood pressure, breast enlargement in men and voice deepening in women.
Not all types of adrenal gland tumors are cancerous. Even so, a benign tumor can be painful and disrupt hormone production, and therefore may require treatment. Benign tumors, or adenomas, are also called incidentalomas because they are usually discovered unexpectedly during a diagnostic test that was performed for an unrelated reason.
The specific treatment recommended for an adrenal gland tumor will depend on its type and other patient-specific factors. In addition to adenomas, the most common adrenal tumor types include:
- Adrenocortical carcinomas – Also known as adrenal cortex cancer, this relatively uncommon type of adrenal tumor usually forms within the outer layer of the adrenal cortex. As a tumor grows, it may begin to cause pain or persistent feelings of fullness, which can lead to unintended weight loss. These tumors may also cause an adrenal gland to produce excess hormones that lead to weight gain or early-onset puberty.
- Pheochromocytomas – Typically found within the interior of an adrenal gland (medulla), this type of adrenal tumor has been linked to an abnormality in the adrenaline-producing cells, which regulate many bodily functions, such as blood pressure and heart rate. The symptoms, which are similar to those associated with elevated adrenaline levels, include a racing heart, high blood pressure, anxiety and sweating.
- Neuroblastomas – One of the most common types of pediatric cancer, these adrenal tumors, which are usually found in the developing nerve cells of an adrenal medulla, predominantly affect children under the age of 10. Usually discovered when an abdominal mass becomes apparent, neuroblastomas may also cause fatigue, fever and loss of appetite.
The oncologists in the Endocrine Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center have extensive experience in treating all adrenal tumor types. To help ensure the best possible outcome and quality of life for each patient, we take an individualized approach to treatment, developing tailored plans using evidence-based pathways and a number of individual factors.
For more information on the various adrenal tumor types and the treatment options available at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We accept patients with and without referrals.