Types of adrenal cancer
Adrenal cancers are found in both the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. There are three common types of adrenal cancer:
- Adrenocortical carcinoma: Also called adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) or adrenal cortex cancer, this is the most common type of adrenal cancer. It typically forms within the outer layer of the cortex. These tumors are usually discovered when they grow to a larger size and begin to cause pain or a feeling of fullness, resulting in weight loss. These tumors may also produce excess hormones that can cause weight gain, excess facial hair or early puberty. If an adrenal tumor is larger than 5 to 6 centimeters, it is usually assumed to be cancer.
- Pheochromocytoma: Usually forming in the central part of the medulla, this type of adrenal cancer typically originates from adrenaline-producing cells. Adrenaline helps regulate important bodily functions, including heart rate and blood pressure. Symptoms of this type of tumor are commonly associated with increased adrenaline levels and can include higher blood pressure, excess sweating, racing heart and anxiety.
- Neuroblastoma: Found in developing nerve cells of the medulla, this type of adrenal cancer usually affects infants or children under 10. Because of the nature of these types of cells, it can be easy to determine where they originated if detected early. However, in rare cases, since they can spread quickly, the origin can be hard to determine. According to the American Cancer Society, about one in three neuroblastomas begin in the adrenal glands.