Adrenal gland tumor is not a rare medical condition these days. Even though some 95% of the discovered tumors are benign, there are still remaining 5% of cancerous changes that present a threat. What exactly causes the tumors of adrenal glands is not yet known, but there are some studies that revealed the genetic predisposition to these serious medical issues.
Adrenal glands are endocrine glands, located above the kidneys, one gland on top of each kidney. Because of the location, they are sometimes called suprarenal (above kidney) glands. There are two parts of each adrenal gland: cortex and medulla. Cortex is the outside part, and it produces steroid hormones, including aldosterone and cortisol. They regulate numerous functions of the body, including the regulation of salt and water balance. The other part is inner portion of the gland, known as medulla. It secretes epinephrine and nor-epinephrine (also called adrenaline and noradrenaline) hormones. Whenever the body is exposed to some stress, the body synthesizes these hormones and causes reaction. Perspiration, hand trembling and heart palpitations are just some of the reactions of the body, provoked by adrenal medulla hormones.
Adrenal Gland Tumors
In general, there is a differentiation to benign and malignant neoplasm of the adrenal gland. Some of the tumors are known to cause overproduction of endocrine hormones. The term adrenal cancer refers to malignant tumors, such as adrenocortical carcinoma, neuroblastoma and some cases of pheochromocytomas. Some of the benign tumors are: adrenal cortex adenomas and most pheoochromocytomas. Benign tumors do not spread and invade either surrounding nor distant tissues or organs. They might cause problems only if they produce hormones, by creating the hormonal imbalance.
Some of the tumors originated in the cortex (adenoma, carcinoma) and some started in adrenal medulla, like pheochromocytoma or neuroblastoma.
As we said, some tumors may cause increased secretion of adrenal hormones, thus triggering the formation of a tumor. Tumor then leads to the overproduction of steroid hormones, catecholamines and aldosterone. Steroid hormones could provoke the Cushing’s syndrome, catecholamines can lead to pheochromocytoma and aldosterone may cause Conn’s syndrome.
Adrenal Gland Tumor Symptoms
Adrenal gland tumors may be identified by a serious of symptoms and signs, including: hypertension, palpitations, panic attacks, excessive nervousness and headaches. Patients might also experience: excessive perspiration, weakness and tiredness, abdominal pain. Low blood potassium and diabetes could be also provoked by the tumor of the adrenal gland. Sometimes, an unexplained weight change could indicate adrenal tumor. It is possible to gain or lose some weight because of the tumor.
How is Adrenal Tumor Treated?
Adrenal gland tumors are usually treated by the surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands. The surgical procedure might be laparoscopic or open adrenalectomy (removal of adrenal glands). Other treatments may include: radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Non-cancerous tumors that don’t secrete hormones are harmless. They don’t cause any severe symptoms and in general they don’t have to be treated.