Adrenal cancer symptoms

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was reviewed on June 7, 2022.

Many symptoms of adrenal cancer, which are the small glands that sit above each of the kidneys, are related to hormonal imbalances resulting from the tumors over- or under-secreting a particular hormone. With malignant adrenal cancer (cancer that may spread), adrenal cancer symptoms often go undetected until the cancer is in an advanced stage.

Adrenal cancer symptoms that do develop vary depending on the stage of the tumor and the kind of hormone secreted. Warning signs are often not obvious or seem unrelated, making diagnosis difficult in the early stages of adrenal cancer. While blood and urine tests may detect elevated hormone levels, most adrenal tumors are found during a scan for an unrelated condition.

General symptoms of adrenal cancer include:

  • Fever
  • A noticeable lump in the abdomen
  • Persistent pain (pressure of tumor on organs), often occurring in the back or the side
  • Feeling of fullness, caused by a tumor pressing against the stomach
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloating

Some women may also experience adrenal cancer-related hormonal changes that result in symptoms like excess facial hair, irregular menstrual periods and hair loss on the head.

In men, hormonal changes due to adrenal cancer may include shrinking testicles and enlarged tissue in the breast area.

Endocrine conditions such as Conn’s and Cushing syndrome occur due to over-secretion of a particular hormone and may result in adrenal tumors, though these tumors tend to be benign.

Next topic: What are the types of adrenal cancer?

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