What are the Adrenal Glands?
Our bodies have two adrenal glands, located atop each of our two kidneys. They are critical to managing hormone levels and the other bodily systems that require these hormones to function.
The adrenal cortex is the outer part of the adrenal gland and makes cortisol, aldosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which carefully control your metabolism, hair growth and body shape.
The adrenal medulla is the inner part of the gland and produces epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine which control your body’s responses to stress, including blood pressure.
Adrenal gland tumors develop when normal cells change and grow uncontrollably, and can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).
Types of Adrenal Gland Tumors
There are four main types of adrenal gland tumors:
Adenoma - This is a noncancerous and commonest type of adrenal gland tumor that affects the adrenal cortex. This type of tumor usually does not present with symptoms and, if small in size, often does not require treatment.
Adrenocortical carcinoma (also adrenal cortical carcinoma) - This is a rare, cancerous type of adrenal gland tumor affecting one or two people in one million. This is a particularly aggressive form of cancer, and can grow for years without a person knowing and spread to other organs or systems (abdominal cavity, lungs, liver, and bone), before it is discovered.
Neuroblastoma - This is a childhood cancer that forms when immature neuroblasts (cells that are supposed to mature into nerve cells or adrenal medulla cells) don’t mature properly. Neuroblastoma can form before the baby is born and, although it can sometimes be discovered through a pre-natal ultrasound, many times, it is found after the cancer has already spread.
Pheochromocytoma - This is a cancerous neuroendocrine tumor which usually begins in the adrenal medulla.
Symptoms and Treatment of Adrenal Gland Tumors