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Adrenal cancer – There is a lot more to fighting cancer than destroying cancer cells

Adrenal cancer is an atypical cancer that forms in the petit, triangular glands located on the upper surface of kidneys. Shaped in triangular form, these adrenal glands are also referred to as the suprarenal glands. Often, it is linked with excessive production of one of numerous hormones, including aldosterone, cortisol (Cushing syndrome).

It is a rare disease and has an incidence rate of 1-2 per million population. Remarkably, the disease surfaces in children under the age of 6 and in adults who are in the age of 30-40. The overall 5-year survival rate is 20-35%.

Symptoms

As soon as the symptoms are detected in a patient, then the specialist will try to manage them through medications. In a majority of cases, signs of adrenal cancer get surfaced by excess generation of the hormones androgen and estrogen. Since physical changes are clearly visible during the stages of puberty, it is easier to identify symptoms in children than adults. The immediate signs of adrenal cancer in children are:

Usually, adrenal cancer doesn’t display early symptoms and only 5% of people show symptoms of the disease.

  • Abundant hair growth
  • Bloated penis
  • Bloated clitoris
  • Huge breasts in boys
  • Onset of puberty in girls at an early age

Symptoms of Adreal Cancer in Adults are:

  • Depression
  • Bruising in quick time
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle cramps
  • Enhanced weight around the stomach and chest
  • Irregular periods
  • Hair growth on different body parts like face, back and chest (women)
  • High blood pressure

 

Causes

Though it is not known what triggers the onset of adrenal cancer, still it is presumed that the following factors contribute to the disease:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Smoking but not proven conclusively

Risk factors

  • Abnormal growth disorder with large body and organs
  • Inherited disorder with an increased incidence of cancers.
  • Inherited condition with many polyps in the large intestine

Tests & Diagnosis

Diagnosing adrenal cancer is not an easy task and requires a considerable amount of expertise. In effect, the diagnosis of the disease begins with a physical test followed by the investigation of symptoms. Primarily, the patient may be put to urine and blood tests along with harmone-level tests. There are a range of specific approaches available to diagnose and identify the extent of disease. The major tests include:

  • Imaging tests like Positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomographic (CT Scan)
  • Biopsy
  • Adrenal angiography
  • Blood Test
  • Nuclear Scintigraphy
  • Radiographic scanning
  • Adreno-venous sampling
  • Biochemical testing

Comprehensive genetic testing and counseling may be done in the case of hereditary factors.

Treatment

If the Adrenal cancer is detected in the early stages, then it is likely that the disease can be cured. Otherwise, it can spread to areas beyond the adrenal gland making the cure difficult.

Since Chemotherapy options are restricted to patients with adrenal cancer, surgical treatment procedure at cancer hospital in Hyderabad remains as a viable option for a prolonged survival. To remove large tumors, two types of surgical procedures are carried out transabdominal surgery, thoracoabdominal surgery. In selected cases, metastases of the tumor outside of the adrenal like the lung, liver and brain may ensure improvements in the survival of patients.

In some instances, it may not be possible to remove cancer completely owing to the extent of attack of neighboring organs, tumor debulking where to the extent possible, tumor is removed. This facilitates the improvement of symptoms from steroid hormone over secretion and relief from pain in the tumor.

In the post surgery phase, lifelong evaluation of the patient becomes necessary. Adrenal cancer can recur at any time and if mitotane is taken as part of treatment, hormones are prescribed to compensate hormonal suppression.