Adrenal cancer is very rare but is most common in children younger than 5 years old and adults in their 40s and 50s.

The condition may be linked to a cancer syndrome that is passed down through families. Both men and women can develop this tumor.

Adrenal cancer can produce the hormones cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen, or testosterone, as well as other hormones. In women the tumor often releases these hormones, which can lead to male characteristics.

Adrenal Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of increased cortisol or other adrenal gland hormones may include:

  • Fatty, rounded hump high on the back just below the neck (buffalo hump)
  • Flushed, rounded face with pudgy cheeks (moon face)
  • Obesity
  • Stunted growth (short stature)
  • Virilization -- the appearance of male characteristics, including increased body hair (especially on the face), pubic hair, acne, deepening of the voice, and enlarged clitoris.

Symptoms of increased aldosterone are the same as symptoms of low potassium, and include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Pain in the abdomen

Adrenal Cancer Diagnosis

The diagnosis and treatment of urologic cancers usually begins with symptoms. However, some patients have no symptoms, and their tumors are found during routine imaging.

Imaging tests of the abdomen may include:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • PET scan

Adrenal Cancer Treatment Options

Our urologic oncologists will recommend surgery, chemotherapy or a combination of those two treatments to treat your adrenal cancer.

As with any tumor, when possible, our urologic surgeons will recommend a minimally invasive approach. Minimally invasive approaches to surgery offer many benefits, including faster recovery, reduced rate of infection and less blood loss. However, your doctor will only recommend minimally invasive surgery to remove the adrenal tumor if the size of the tumor is small.

Chemotherapy is a form of systemic therapy that seeks and destroys cancer cells to stop their growth and spread. Depending on the size of your tumor and if it has spread to nearby organs, your doctors may recommend chemotherapy.

Why Multidisciplinary Teams Matter, No Matter What Stage

At Wake Forest Baptist, we create teams of the different specialists who focus on urologic cancers. What this means is that at every stage of your cancer journey, you will meet with doctors who only focus on the type of cancer you have. Together, with other specialized experts, they will decide on the best treatment for you, personalizing your treatment directly to your condition and lifestyle.

It is because of our multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment, that we have been designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 51 in the country.