Diagnosis and Treatment of Adrenal Cancer | Loyola Medicine

Adrenal Cancer

Integrative Approach in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer is one of the many urologic cancer types treated by the highly skilled doctors at Loyola Medicine. Our interdisciplinary team of doctors provides an integrated approach to the diagnosis of adrenal cancer, and our patients receive the latest advances in research and therapies for adrenal cancer treatment.
The adrenal glands are small triangular glands that sit atop each kidney. Their function is to balance salt and water in the body, regulate blood pressure and help the body manage its use of carbohydrates, fat and protein. 
There are two main types of adrenal tumors: benign and malignant. An adenoma is benign and the most common type of adrenal gland tumor. Adenomas are noncancerous, do not usually cause any symptoms and most often do not require treatment. 
A malignant tumor of the adrenal gland, also called adrenocortical carcinoma, is a rare form of cancer found most often in children younger than five and in adults in their 30s and 40s.  Adrenal gland cancer may be genetic, but the cause is unknown. Adrenal gland cancer can lead to the production of adrenal hormones like cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen or testosterone, as well as others.


How is Adrenal Cancer Diagnosed?

Doctors at Loyola approach the diagnosis of adrenal cancer with great compassion and care.  A patient’s personal and family medical history, symptoms, physical exam and imaging results can help diagnose a patient’s adrenal cancer. 
A patient may see a lump in the abdomen or feel pain in the abdomen or back. Patients often have high blood pressure and changes in body shape, such as breast growth in men (gynecomastia) or male signs in women. Blood tests will be performed to check hormone levels. 

The following test results may indicate adrenal cancer:

  • Low adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) level
  • High aldosterone level
  • High cortisol level
  • High male or female hormones
  • Low potassium level

Imaging tests for diagnosis can include an X-ray, CT scan or MRI of the abdomen.

How is Adrenal Cancer Treated?

Adrenal cancer treatment is specific to each individual person and depends on the type, size and stage of your cancer. At Loyola, an interdisciplinary team of pathologists, oncologists, endocrinologists and surgeons work together to establish the most comprehensive treatment plan that will ensure your best outcomes. 

In many cases, the most effective treatment for adrenal cancer is surgery to remove the tumor. In addition, medications may be given to reduce production of cortisol, which causes many of the symptoms. Patients may also undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy.