Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer is a rare disease that originates in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on the top of the kidneys and consist of two parts that function separately: the cortex and medulla. The cortex produces three major hormones: cortisol, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone. The medulla produces epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Adrenal tumors are broken down in to two categories: functioning tumor which increase hormone production or nonfunctioning tumor which do not produce hormones. The treatment of adrenal cancer is based on whether or not the tumor is functioning or nonfunctioning.


Adrenal cancer does not always produce symptoms. Both nonfunctioning and functioning tumors may cause the following:

  • Fever
  • Palpable abdominal mass
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Sensation of abdominal "fullness"
  • Weight loss

Additional symptoms may occur depending upon which hormones are overproduced by a functioning tumor.


Treatment for adrenal cancer depends on the stage of the disease at diagnosis. Some of the options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The treatment for patients with functioning tumors usually involves using medications to manage symptoms.

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