What is adrenal cancer?

It is a malignant tumour that usually originates from the outer part of the adrenal gland, the cortex, and is called adrenocortical cancer. However, it can also originate from the inner part of the adrenal gland, the medulla, i.e. it can be a malignant pheochromocytoma.


How common is adrenal cancer and at what age is it most often found?

Adrenocortical cancer is very rare, about 1-2 cases per million per year. It can occur at any age, but is most common before 5 years of age and in the 4th-5th decade of life.


What are the causes of adrenal cancer?

The exact cause of adrenal cancer is not known. The majority of adrenocortical cancers are sporadic, but some are part of inherited genetic syndromes, such as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndrome 1 (MEN1).


What are the symptoms of adrenal cancer?

The symptoms of adrenal cancer depend on whether the tumour is functioning, its size and the speed at which it grows. If the tumour is functional, it usually manifests as:

In case the tumour is non-functional it usually manifests as:

  • Asymptomatic
  • Abdominal pain or pain in the adrenal area

How is adrenal cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis includes history, physical examination, blood and imaging tests. It should be investigated whether the tumour over-secretes certain hormones and whether it has metastasised. It requires a lot of experience in interpreting the results and a specialised centre.


How is adrenal cancer treated?

Treatment includes one or more of the following:

  • Surgical removal
  • Antineoplastic/adrenolytic Drugs
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation

What is the prognosis of adrenal cancer?

The prognosis of adrenal cancer depends on the stage of the disease. However, it is an aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis.