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Adrenal Cancer Symptoms

By Mayer, Deborah K RN, MSN, AOCN®, FAAN

Patients with adrenal cancer may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back

  • A lump in the abdomen 

  • Unwanted or unexpected weight loss

  • Weakness and low potassium levels

  • Hirsutism (increased hairiness occurring mostly in women) or virilism (causes woman to develop masculine features)

  • Difficulty controlling “labile” high blood pressure (blood pressure that goes up and down in an erratic manner) 

  • New onset of diabetes that is hard to control

Cancer of the adrenal cortex can cause high blood pressure, weakening of the bones, and diabetes. People with this type of adrenal cancer may experience deepening of the voice, hair growth on the face, and swelling of the sex organs or breasts. These symptoms may happen if male or female hormones are produced by the tumor. 

People with pheochromocytomas may develop high blood pressure, which can cause chest pain, sweating, headaches, pounding of the heart, heart palpitations, and anxiety.

It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by many other medical problems. If a person has any of these symptoms, they should see their doctor as soon as possible.

Adrenal Cancer Pathophysiology

The way a cancer tends to spread is called its pathophysiology. When adrenal cancer spreads from the site of the original tumor, it is called metastasis. The most common sites of metastases are the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen), lung, liver, and bones.

Medical Reviewer: [Alteri, Rick MD, Dezube, Bruce MD, Foster, Sara M. RN, MPH] Last Annual Review Date: 2010-12-15T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © 2007 CancerSource, 280 Summer Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

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