Know More About Adrenal Cancer
As the name suggests, adrenal cancer develops in the adrenal gland located above the Kidneys. The adrenal glands promote hormone production along with producing them that instruct the cells and tissues in the body. The adrenal glands maintain the overall functioning of the body. These are highly essential for fight or flight responses.
Also termed adrenocortical cancer, it can develop in any age group. If the cancer is detected at an early stage, the chances of a cure for adrenal cancer are high. The treatment in the latest changes will depend on the advancements that the disease has reached.
Causes of Adrenal Cancer
The causes of adrenal cancer are not completely clear. Usually, the Genetic mutations in the adrenal gland cell lead to the formation of tumor cells. the changes in the DNA guide the cell to divide continuously and uncontrollably. the mass of cells formed may or may not be metastatic.
If someone suffers from carney complex, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Multiple endocrine neoplasias, type 1 (MEN 1), Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, or Lynch syndrome, the chances of developing adrenal cancer are increased.
Types of Adrenal Cancer
There are basically two types of adrenal cancer. The cancerous adrenal tumors are generally malignant, while the noncancerous adrenal tumors are benign. Both types and divided into further subcategories.
The cancer cells develop in the cortex of the adrenal gland. it forms the outermost layer of the gland, and the tumor cells formed here are mostly functional and produce hormones, while the rest are non-functional.
Malignant adrenal pheochromocytoma
This type of cancer begins in the medulla or middle region of the adrenal gland. it is one of the rare, occurring kinds.
It generally occurs in the medulla itself and is observed among children frequently.
In this case, the cancer cells are formed either inside or outside the adrenal glands.
Among benign tumors, the most common type is an adenoma, where the body produces extra cortisol leading to Cushing’s syndrome. Apart from this, benign pheochromocytoma and benign paraganglioma are some other types.
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Cancer
- As the tumor advances, one may feel a lump and pain in the abdomen. An individual might also experience the feeling of fullness or pressure soon after he or she eats.
- Often, the tumors that cause excess release of androgens lead to the development of symptoms like extra body and facial hairs and large penis and clitoris in boys and girls, respectively.
- Symptoms that develop due to excess production of estrogen are breast enlargement in males, breast growth or periods at an early age in females, Decreased sex drive in men, deepened boys and women, and spotting post menopause.
- Extra cortisol production can lead to a puffy face, stretch marks, weight gain, mood swings, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, depression, weaker bones and muscles, and easy bruising.
- Excessive aldosterone production may lead to muscle cramps, low potassium levels, weakness, high blood pressure, severe thirst, and urinating more than usual.
Adrenal Cancer Diagnosis
The methods of adrenal cancer diagnosis are various and performed until the confirmation is received.
Blood and urine tests
The doctor will collect the urine and blood samples to determine the levels of hormones produced by the adrenal gland. The levels of aldosterone, cortisol, and androgens are determined using these samples.
The imaging tests are performed to get detailed images of the affected area and determine its working condition. The procedures like MRI, CT scan, and PET are performed to see if the disease has spread to other organs like the liver or lungs.
The doctor can often perform laboratory analysis of the adrenal gland by removing it from the body. The pathologist will look for the kind of cancer cells present and the effect that they can have on the body.
Consequences of treatments
Such treatments may have some side effects on the body:
- Chemotherapy might lead to health issues like feeling sick and tired after the treatments, hair loss, low red blood cell count (anemia), and more vulnerability to infections, sore mouth, and bleeding and bruising.
- While getting radiation therapy, the normal healthy cells might also undergo damage, red and sore skin, fatigue, loss of appetite, uncomfortable swallowing, stiffness in muscles and joints, diarrhea, and fertility issues.
- After the surgery for adrenal cancer, the patient might feel issues like elevation in cortisol and serum potassium levels, fatigue, infections, low blood pressure, increased levels of stress, and hormonal imbalance..
- Using medications during adrenal cancer might lead to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, sleepiness, rashes, and confusion..
Adrenal Cancer Treatment
The aim of surgery remains to be the removal of adrenal cancer completely. Adrenalectomy is generally performed to remove all the affected areas. If the infection spreads to other parts of the body like the kidney or liver, the surgeon might remove the affected portions during the surgery.
Radiation therapy involves the use of protons and X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is also administered after surgery to remove the remaining tumor cells. It helps reduce the symptoms of the disease as well.
Chemotherapy involves using special chemicals or drugs either singularly or in combination to treat the disease. These chemicals are run throughout the body to target the cancer cells and destroy them.
Use of medications
Certain medications can be provided by the doctor to provide you relief from the pain and discomfort. Medicines like Mitotane can be provided by specialists to people vulnerable to developing cancer.
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