Tumors of the Adrenal Glands

Adrenal glands which are sometimes called suprarenal glands, are small tissues found just above each kidney. These glands are triangular in shape bounded by layers of connective tissues and layer of fat. Usually, normal cells in the body grow and divide old or damaged cells in highly regulated way and once enough cells are being produced to replace the old ones, the normal cells will stop dividing. In this process, tumor cells will take place if a fault occurs within the process and will continue to develop uncontrollably to become either a benign or malignant cells.

Although relatively uncommon, these types of cancers cells could develop directly within the adrenal glands or may occur directly from the adrenal cortex, thus called adrenal cortical cancers. These cancer cells may either be non-functioning or functioning cancers. A non-functioning adrenal cortical cancer cells are those that do not produced steroid hormones while a functioning adrenal cortical cancer cells, also the more common form, are those that produces excess steroids hormones. However, cancer cells can also occur within the vicinity of the adrenal medulla, whereby the most widespread form were the pheochromocytoma, a cancer cell resulting from chromaffin cells usually associated with paroxysmal or sustained hypertensions.

Benign tumor cells can grow uncontrollably, however it will not spread to other parts of the body to metastasize nor will it invade surrounding tissues compared to malignant tumors (cancers) that will grow uncontrolled, invade and damage other tissues around them. At this very instance, malignant tumors will gain the ability to sever off from where it started and spread to other parts of the body often through the blood stream or through the vessel transporting lymph nodes.

Actually the most common benign tumor of the adrenal gland is called adrenal adenoma. In most cases, these tumors will never cause any symptoms to patients and do not need any treatments. These tumors can typically be found during a patient’s CT scan for unrelated reasons, thus called incidental tumors. Incidentally, the adrenal glands are the fourth most common location in the human body for cancer cells to metastasize, after lungs, liver and bones, thus several types or the most common types of cancer cells to spread to the adrenal glands are the melanomas, lung cancers and breast cancers. And the most common cancer cells found in the adrenal glands are those that come from cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) in other parts of the body to the adrenal gland through the blood stream.

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