Adrenal cancer or adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare disease. It occurs due to the growth of cancerous tissues in the adrenal cortex. It is the outer region of the adrenal glands. It is also the largest portion of the adrenal gland. Most tumors of the adrenal glands are benign, and only 5 to 10 percent of the adrenal tumors are malignant.
Types of Adrenal Cancer
Following are the two types of adrenal cancer:
- Functional Tumor: The presence of this tumor increases the secretion of adrenal hormones. Patients with this type of tumor have increased testosterone, cortisol, and aldosterone levels in the body.
- Non-functional Tumor: The presence of this tumor does not increase the production of hormones in adrenal glands.
Symptoms of Adrenal Cancer
Following are the symptoms of adrenal cancer:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Enlargement of the breast in men or boys (also known as gynecomastia)
- Early puberty in girls or boys
- High blood pressure
- High levels of sugar in the blood
- Excessive body hairs or facial hairs in women
- Occurrence of weight gain in the neck, face, and trunk (and not in extremities, such as legs and arms)
- Muscle weakness
- Deepening of voice
- Frequent urination
- Absence of menstrual periods
The patients should visit the adrenocortical cancer doctors in Nashik if they have symptoms that indicate adrenal cancer.
Causes of Adrenal Cancer
Although the exact cause of adrenal cancer remains unknown, certain inherited conditions increase the risk of this cancer:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Carney complex
- Multiple endocrine neoplasias (MEN1)
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
- Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome
- Lynch syndrome
- Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
Diagnosis of Adrenal Cancer
Adrenocortical cancer can be diagnosed through the following diagnostic methods:
- Physical examination: The doctor performs a detailed examination to evaluate the symptoms of adrenal cortical cancer.
- Blood tests: The levels of certain substances, such as sodium and potassium, in the blood are determined.
- Urine test: 24-hour urine tests are performed to check the level of 17-ketosteroid or cortisol.
- Dexamethasone suppression test: High-dose and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test is performed, and cortisol level in the blood or urine is calculated.
- Adrenal imaging: Several imaging tests are performed to determine the spread of adrenal cortical cancer. These include MRI, PET scan, metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan, CAT scan, adrenal venography, and adrenal angiography.
- Biopsy: The doctor may also advise the patient to undergo a biopsy. During this procedure, the tissue sample is obtained and evaluated under the microscope for the presence of cancerous cells.
Treatment for Adrenal Cancer
The expert team at HCG Manavata Cancer Center provides the best adrenal cancer treatment in Nashik, Maharashtra. The treatment options available for adrenal cortical cancer include:
Surgery: Several surgical interventions are implemented to treat adrenal cancer. In localized cancer, the doctor may perform complete resection of the adrenal gland. Different surgical approaches for cancer treatment include open adrenalectomy, laparoscopic adrenalectomy, and lymph nodes dissection. Open surgery is generally used for adrenal cortical cancer, while laparoscopic surgery is reserved for limited cases.
Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation kills cancerous cells. Radiation therapy can be used with chemotherapy and surgery to increase its effectiveness. There are two types of radiation therapy. It includes external radiation and internal radiation. During external radiation therapy, the radiation is delivered from outside the body. During internal radiation therapy, the surgeon places the radioactive substance at the site of the tumor.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill cancerous cells. This treatment works by preventing the division of cancerous cells or killing them. The doctor may prescribe a single or combination of chemotherapeutic drugs.
Immunotherapy: Several mechanisms inside cancerous cells help them hide from the immune system and proliferate. Immunotherapy interferes in these processes and makes the cancerous cells vulnerable to the immune system. The therapy also boosts and restores the immune system.
Targeted therapy: This therapy specifically targets the cancerous cells and avoids harming the healthy cells. The targeted therapy has lesser side effects compared to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The targeted therapy works by blocking the action of vital substances, such as proteins, enzymes, and other molecules, that are vital for the survival of cancerous cells.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the complications of adrenal cancer?
Patients with adrenal tumors have several complications. If left untreated, the growth of the adrenal tumor continues. It compresses the nearby organs and interferes with their functioning. The functional tumor may result in excessive levels of several hormones.
2. What is the outlook of adrenocortical tumors?
The prognosis of the adrenal cortical tumor depends upon the location and size of the tumor. It also depends upon the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. Young people have a better prognosis compared to the elderly. Early detection and timely treatment play a pivotal role in having a better prognosis. Therefore, it is important for one to not ignore any symptoms and receive appropriate medical attention when necessary.
3. What is the follow-up schedule after the treatment for the adrenocortical tumor?
The patients should continue follow-up every three months during and after the treatment because of the aggressive malignant potential of adrenal cortical cancer. The follow-up schedule is changed to every six months after 2-3 years of recurrence period till five years. After five years, the screening should be done every 1-2 years.
4. How is adrenal cancer prevented?
There is no method to prevent this cancer. However, if you have a family member who is suffering from adrenal cortical cancer or if you have an inherited disease that increases the risk of this cancer, regularly visit the doctor for routine screening.