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Adrenal Gland Tumors An Overview

Malignancies of the adrenal glands are rare and not well understood.

Adrenal glands are an indispensable part of the endocrine system. They are responsible for producing essential hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine. These hormones trigger various responses in our body including reaction to stress, libido, and mood changes. Abnormal aggregation of cancer cells anywhere on the adrenal glands can disrupt the hormonal balance and create havoc in the body.


The symptoms of adrenal gland cancer can vary depending on the location and type of tumor, here are some examples:

Due To an Estrogen Imbalance:

1. Early puberty

2. Breast development in boys

3. Erectile dysfunction

4. Diminished sexual drive in men

5. Hoarseness in women

6. Disruption in the menstrual cycle

Due To a Cortisol Imbalance:

1. Excessive weight gain that appears around the cheeks and the abdominal region

2. Increased tendency to bruise

3. Mood swings, depression, anxiety

4. Depreciation of muscle mass especially in the legs

5. Erratic menstrual cycle

6. Reduced bone strength

Due To an Aldosterone Imbalance:

1. Frequent muscular cramps

2. Fatigue

3. Falling potassium levels

4. Hypertension

Due To A Large Sized Tumor:

1. Pain

2. Abdominal heaviness

3. Loss of appetite

Due To an Androgen Imbalance:

1. Hirsutism (Unwanted male-pattern hair growth in women.)

2. Enlarged genitals in male and female

Risk Factors:

1. People with genetic defects that give rise to conditions like the Li Fraumeni syndrome, the Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and multiple endocrine neoplasias are at a higher risk of developing adrenal tumors.

2. Smoking may increase the probability of tumor formation in and around the adrenal glands.


Diagnosis of adrenal malignancies involves the following:

1. A detailed physical examination to check for signs of an irregular mass.

2. Hormone level checks through blood and urine sample analysis

3. Imaging methods to find the mass and study it


The treatment process chosen depends on the extent to which the carcinoma has spread as well as its type. Here are some common protocols that physicians consider in such cases:

1. Surgical Methods – Completely extracting the adrenal gland is the most common line of treatment. The extent of extraction is highly dependent on the size of the area which the tumor covers.

2. Radiation Treatment – High-intensity x-rays are used to decimate the cancer cells. It is typically given post-surgery as a precautionary measure to eradicate any cancer cells that were left behind. There are two main types of radiation – external radiation therapy and brachytherapy, or internal radiation therapy.  

3. Chemotherapy – These strong medications, administered orally or intravenously, help inhibit cancer cells from spreading. In case of adrenal carcinoma, this treatment is only used when the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

4. Symptomatic Relief Drugs -  Medications that block the hormones created by the tumor or reduce the effects of excessive hormone production help provide relief from the symptoms of adrenal carcinoma. Such drugs include ketoconazole, metyrapone, spironolactone, and mifepristone.

For more information on various types of cancers and their treatments, please visit our website – 


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