Adrenal Cancer Diagnosis & Detection
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Video: The Importance of Accurately Diagnosing & Staging CancerLearn about the importance of an accurate cancer diagnosis.
The Importance of Accurately Diagnosing & Staging Cancer
Dr. Timothy McCay explains why it’s important for doctors to accurately diagnose and stage each patient’s cancer.
Diagnosing Adrenal Cancer
If you are experiencing any of the potential symptoms of adrenal cancer, be sure to see your doctor. He or she should take detailed notes about your medical history and ask questions about the symptoms you are experiencing. If you have a family history of cancer, let your doctor know. Your doctor will also examine you for possible signs of adrenal cancer, such as a lump in your abdomen.
Your doctor may suggest a variety of diagnostic tests in order to determine your condition. He or she may start out with a series of blood and urine tests. These can help the doctor determine if you have especially high levels of some hormones that can be caused by adrenal cancer. Depending on the results of the blood and urine tests, your doctor may then advise having a one of several tests for adrenal cancer, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, PET/CT scan and/or MRI.
Diagnostic Imaging Tests for Adrenal Cancer
When diagnosing adrenal cancer or other adrenal diseases, your doctor may use the following imaging tests:
- CT – Computed tomography (CT) is an X-ray procedure that uses a computer to generate three-dimensional, cross-sectional images of your body. In some cases, a CT scan can show diseased tissue and other affected areas that standard X-rays miss. CT can be used to see if there is cancer in your adrenal glands or other areas of your body, such as your liver. CT can also help doctors decide if surgery is a viable treatment option. Typically, CT scans take 10 to 15 minutes to perform.
- Ultrasound – This diagnostic tool produces images of internal organs from high-energy sound waves and echoes. In cases where a CT scan cannot be performed, ultrasound may be used to look at the adrenal glands and check for tumors. It can also be used to see if there are masses in the liver, an area of the body to which adrenal cancer can spread.
- PET/CT – This tool merges two diagnostic imaging technologies: positron emission tomography (PET) and CT. You receive both scans in a single imaging session. A radioactive sugar solution is first administered into one of your veins. The sugar accumulates in cancerous areas of your body. The scanner is then able to "see" where the glucose is being taken up (cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells). Doctors use PET/CT to determine if an adrenal tumor is likely to be benign or cancerous. They can also determine if cancer has spread to other areas.
- MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic technology that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside your body. MRI shows greater soft tissue contrast than CT. It can help doctors evaluate adrenal tumors to decide if they are likely to be benign or cancerous. Doctors may also use MRI to examine your brain. The pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, can cause similar symptoms as those triggered by adrenal tumors. MRIs may be taken with or without contrast dye, and take approximately an hour to perform.
Biopsies for Adrenal Cancer
Tissue samples (biopsies) of adrenal tumors are generally not taken before surgery. This is particularly the case with adrenocortical carcinoma, as a needle biopsy of this type of adrenal cancer can spread tumor cells. More often, doctors determine the likelihood that an adrenal tumor is cancerous based on the tumor’s size and features, as depicted in various diagnostic imaging tests.
If doctors determine from the imaging tests that a tumor is present in the adrenal glands and that tumors exist outside of the glands, a biopsy may be taken from the area to which disease appears to have spread. For example, if a mass appears in the liver, doctors may obtain a biopsy of it through a fine needle. The biopsy is then analyzed in a laboratory to determine if it contains adrenal cells. If cells from the adrenal glands are present in the liver biopsy, an adrenal cancer diagnosis can be confirmed.
Post-Diagnosis: Adrenal Cancer Evaluation & Treatment Planning
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, patients who have an adrenal cancer diagnosis undergo a thorough evaluation and additional testing to ensure the disease is accurately diagnosed and staged. This allows our doctors to individualize treatment plans to each person, helping patients receive the cancer treatments they need most.
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