Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells that take over neighbouring cells and tissues and, at later stages, also spread to organs. When such cells start in adrenal gland, they cause adrenal cancer.
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In about 50% of the people, the symptoms appear due to hormone secretions by the tumour. In other cases, the tumour has grown large enough to press against other organs and cause discomfort.
Symptoms caused by androgen or estrogen production
These are usually seen in children. The most common symptoms are as follows:
- Excessive growth of facial and body hair
- Male hormones may also enlarge the penis in boys or the clitoris in girls.
Symptoms caused by cortisol production
- Weight gain, usually greatest above the collar bone and around the abdomen
- Fat deposits behind the neck and shoulders
- Purple stretch marks on the abdomen
- Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, and back in women
- Menstrual irregularities
- Weakness and loss of muscle mass in the legs
- Easy bruising
- Depression and/or moodiness
- Weakened bones (osteoporosis), which can lead to fractures
- High blood sugar, often leading to diabetes
- High blood pressure
Symptoms caused by aldosterone production
- High blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- Low blood potassium levels
Symptoms due to large size of tumour
- Pain near the tumour
- A feeling of fullness in the abdomen
- Trouble eating because of a feeling of filling up easily.
Every type of Cancer has risk factors, but they don’t tell us everything. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors.
- Genetic syndromes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High-fat diet
- Exposure to cancer-causing substances
It can be prevented to a certain extent by avoiding the risk factors.
Cancer has different stages, each depicted by a Roman numeral from 1 to 4 (I, II, III and IV). Stage I is the first stage where the tumor is still small while at Stage IV, the patient’s condition is said to be critical because the tumor has spread to other organs of the body. Hence, a cancer’s stage refers to the tumor’s size and extent of spread. This is the simplest form of staging.
In Adrenal cancer, the stage depends on whether it is confined to the origin of the cancer (localized cancer, Stage I) or whether it has spread to other organs (metastatic cancer).
The stage decides the kind of treatment you need to get. The greater the stage number, the more complex the treatment.
Needless to say, if the cancer is detected while it is still in Stage I, survival rate is higher. The rate decreases progressively with the increase in stage. Stage III is considered critical, while stage IV is, more often than not, fatal.
Medicine is evolving everyday to meet these challenges and to keep you happy, healthy and alive!
It is difficult to diagnose Adrenal Cancer early, especially in adults. In children, it is usually much easier because the effects of the hormonal changes start to appear early. The best bet is to pay attention to the signs and symptoms and visit a doctor.
Based on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, primary treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
- Other drugs
Treatment is based on the type of tumor and other factors, and often more than one type of treatment is used. Discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs.
If you have any of the symptoms, please do visit the doctor.
If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned in the Symptoms section, you should probably visit a doctor. You can also get your genetic make-up tested to see if you are prone to adrenal cancer.