Adrenal Cancer is a very rare type of cancer that originates in either one or both of the adrenal glands. It is also termed as adrenocortical cancer, as the majority of instances develop in the outermost layer of the glands, known as the adrenal cortex.

The adrenal glands are a pair of tiny, triangular-shaped organs situated above the kidneys. Also Read: Kidney Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Their primary role is to synthesize hormones – specialized chemical substances, to relay vital information to all the other cells and tissues in the body.

Mostly, adrenal cancer affects children under the age of 5 or middle-aged adults over 40 years old. However, the onset of adrenal cancer can happen at any age.

If adrenal cancer is detected in the initial stages, then it can be completely removed, ensuring full recovery of the affected person. But in case it has spread to other parts of the system, total elimination is not possible, with treatment options only being able to slow down the rate of cancerous growth.
adrenal cancer


The exact cause of adrenal cancer is yet to be determined.

Scientific researchers and medical experts have discovered that certain factors trigger mutations in the DNA of the cells of adrenal glands.

These result in the uncontrolled proliferation of the cancerous cells, destroying normal, healthy cells. These diseased cells accrue in the adrenal glands and form a prominent tumour mass.

Risk Factors

Individuals afflicted with inherited disorders are more likely to acquire adrenal cancer. Some genetic illnesses which raise the risk of various cancers are:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Carney complex
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN 1)
  • Lynch syndrome


The distinguishing indications of adrenal cancer consist of:

  • Unexplained increase in weight
  • Pain and weakness in muscles
  • Distinct pink or purple spots on the skin
  • Hormone imbalances in women, resulting in surplus facial hair, loss of hair on the head and irregular menstrual cycles
  • Hormonal changes in men, leading to enlarged breasts and shortening testicles
  • Nausea, dizziness and vomiting
  • Fever 
  • Pain in the hips and back
  • Reduced appetite
  • Headache


The doctor specializing in cancers – an oncologist, will conduct a series of laboratory tests to identify the cause and extent of adrenal cancer in the patient displaying prominent external signs.

Blood And Urine Analysis

Examining a sample of the patient’s blood and urine helps to establish if abnormal quantities of hormones are secreted in the adrenal glands, such as cortisol, androgen and aldosterone.

Imaging Scans

Advanced procedures, namely MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), CT (Computerised Tomography) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) produce accurate visual depictions of the adrenal glands. These aids the healthcare professional to easily detect any unusual lumps and whether cancer has metastasized to other organs, like the liver and lungs. Also Read: Lung Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Adrenal Gland Excision

If the symptoms displayed by the patient are quite severe and obvious, then in-depth pathological scrutiny is performed on the adrenal gland, after carefully removing it from the body, to evaluate the kinds of cells forming cancer.


Once the diagnosis of adrenal cancer is confirmed in the patient, then pertinent treatment strategies are initiated. These include:

Radiation Therapy

This method utilizes high-voltage energy beams, comprising X-rays and protons, to target and destroy cancer cells.


This invasive protocol, medically termed as adrenalectomy, involves removing the entire adrenal gland that contains tumour mass.


This process delivers highly potent chemicals aimed specifically at cancer tissues, thus effectively eradicating them from the system.

Prescription Drugs

Post radiation sessions, surgical termination and chemotherapy, a course of prescription medicines are given to the patient, to prevent or postpone the recurrence of adrenal cancer.

Supportive Care

Palliative healing, comprising constant physical, mental, emotional encouragement from physicians, nurses, family and friends is important at every stage of the disease, for restoring optimal health of the patient.