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Adrenal cancer is a rare cancer that begins in one or both of the small, triangular glands (adrenal glands) located on top of your kidneys. Adrenal glands produce hormones providing instructions to virtually every organ and tissue in your body.
Also called adrenocortical cancer, adrenal cancer can occur at any age. But it's most likely to affect children younger than 5, and adults in their 40s and 50s.
When adrenal cancer is found early, there is a chance for cure. But if the cancer has spread to areas beyond the adrenal glands, cure becomes less likely. Treatment can be used to delay progression or recurrence.
Most growths that form in the adrenal glands are noncancerous (benign) and are found incidentally on imaging for other reasons. Benign adrenal tumors can develop in the adrenal glands and can contribute to adrenal dysfunction requiring removal.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal dysfunction include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Back pain
- Hormone changes in women that might cause excess facial hair, hair loss on the head and irregular periods
- Hormone changes in men that might cause enlarged breast tissue and shrinking testicles
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight without trying
- Muscle weakness
- Pink or purple stretch marks on the skin
- Weight gain
Adrenal cancer and adrenal dysfunction treatment may involve surgery to remove all of the cancer or dysfunctional adrenal gland.