Adrenal cancer affects your adrenal glands, which sit directly above your kidneys and produce cortisol and other hormones. Most adrenal tumors develop in the cortex, the outer part of the adrenal gland. The two most common tumors are benign adenomas and cancerous carcinomas. Some adrenal tumors form in the medulla, the inner part of the adrenal gland, which produces epinephrine and adrenaline, hormones used by the nervous system. Most adrenal tumors are benign, but even benign tumors can cause discomfort or affect your health. Neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer, can also occur in the adrenal glands, specifically in the medulla.

Adrenal Cancer at UK Markey Cancer Center

Markey's adrenal cancer team provides expert consultation and ongoing care for patients with cancers of the adrenal gland.

Using state-of-the-art technology and leading-edge medical and surgical interventions, the adrenal cancer team provides advanced and timely diagnosis and individualized, ongoing care for patients. Each patient is cared for by a team of specialists who meet regularly to discuss individual patient cases and treatment plans. This multidisciplinary team will work with you and your doctor to coordinate a care plan designed to offer the best outcomes.

Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.

Adrenal cancer symptoms can be divided into two categories: those caused by hormones produced in the adrenal glands and those caused by tumors that have grown to the point that they affect other organs.

Symptoms caused by a hormone imbalance associated with adrenal cancer include:

  • Bruising easily
  • Depression or other unusual changes in mood
  • Early puberty in younger females
  • Enlarged penis or clitoris
  • Excessive facial or body hair
  • Fat deposits behind the neck and shoulders
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Impotence, enlarged or tender breasts or reduced sex drive in men
  • Irregular periods, receding hairline or deepening of the voice in women
  • Low potassium
  • Muscle cramps
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pink or purple stretch marks on the abdomen
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain, particularly in the abdomen, cheeks and above the collar bone

Symptoms caused by an enlarged tumor include:

  • Difficulty eating/feeling full too quickly
  • Fullness in the abdomen
  • Pain near the tumor site

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for all stages of adrenal cancer is 50 percent.

You can lower your risk of cancer by taking steps to build a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways to lower your risk for this disease, as well as improve your overall basic health:

  • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.

While there are few known risk factors for adrenal gland cancer, up to 15 percent of cases (particularly in children) may be connected to genetic syndromes including:

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • Carney complex
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1

While lifestyle factors such as smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle or being overweight can affect a person’s overall risk for a wide variety of cancers, none of these have been tied directly to adrenal gland cancer.

  • For your first visit, depending on your physician, you will be directed either to:
  • If you are being seen at the Head, Neck & Respiratory Clinic, you will register at the front desk or registration area of the Ben F. Roach building, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment. If your appointment is at the Good Samaritan Medical Office Building, you will go directly to the registration desk in Suite 302.
  • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center. If your appointment is at our Good Samaritan Office Building location, you may park in the building’s surface lot or the adjacent lot behind the building.
  • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
  • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.

Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. At Markey, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating adrenal cancer below.

Search Our Ongoing Clinical Trials