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Adrenal Cancer

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Adrenal cancer occurs when a tumor grows in one or both of your adrenal glands. Often, it doesn't have any symptoms. Tumors are usually discovered by accident during an ultrasound, MRI or CT scan for another condition. 

Adrenal glands are small endocrine glands located above your kidneys. Each gland has two parts: the cortex (outer layer) and the medulla (the inner area). Both parts produce hormones in the body. The hormones help you stay healthy, regulate your response to stress, and cause your body to have masculine or feminine characteristics. Adrenal cancer is rare, with estimates of approximately 200 cases per year. Types of adrenal cancers include:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC): This is the most common type of adrenal cancer, which forms in the cortex. Usually, tumors are discovered when they grow and cause pain or a feeling of fullness, resulting in weight loss. The condition may also cause weight gain, excess facial hair or early puberty.

  • Pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma: These are rare and typically benign tumors that come from the same type of tissue. Pheochromocytoma forms in the adrenal medulla (the center of the adrenal gland). Paragangliomas form outside the adrenal gland. These types of adrenal cancer typically originate from adrenaline-producing cells. Symptoms are commonly associated with increased adrenaline levels and can include higher blood pressure, excess sweating, racing heart and anxiety.

  • Primary macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PMAH): Not considered cancer, PMAH is characterized by multiple lumps (nodules) in the adrenal glands. These nodules are usually found in both adrenal glands and vary in size. They cause adrenal gland enlargement and production of higher-than-normal levels of cortisol, a hormone that suppresses inflammation and protects your body from physical stress such as infection or trauma. PMAH is considered a form of Cushing's syndrome, which can cause problems related to the overproduction of hormones.

In approximately 60 percent of people, symptoms related to excessive hormone secretion are the main reasons for seeking medical attention.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Only center in South Florida with a specialty endocrine testing center. You receive greater accuracy in your diagnosis, leading to more precise treatments and better results. Located at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the center is staffed by specialized nurses and technical assistants who perform complex hormone tests.

Advanced radiation oncology tools. Sylvester is one of only five medical centers in the country with ViewRay — MRI-guided radiation therapy. And, our RapidArc® radiotherapy system delivers intensity modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT). This leads to more efficient and effective treatments, shorter treatment times, pinpoint accuracy in tumor targeting, and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

More cancer clinical trials than any other South Florida hospital. If appropriate for your cancer and stage, our clinical trials provide you with the newest ways to treat and potentially cure your cancer.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Treatments

  • Surgery

    Surgery is the main treatment for adrenal cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor, the adrenal gland (adrenalectomy) and sometimes nearby lymph nodes. Surgery can be done through an open procedure (open surgery) or with minimally invasive procedures that use tiny incisions, such as robotic-assisted surgery. Minimally invasive approaches offer precision, less blood loss, and faster healing. 

  • Radiofrequency Ablation

    This procedure uses radio waves that heat and destroy abnormal cells. The radio waves travel through electrodes inserted into the tumor area.

  • Cryoablation

    Rather than using heat, this procedure uses liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide to freeze the tissue and destroy abnormal cells.

  • Transarterial Embolization tTherapy

    This surgical treatment blocks the artery leading to the adrenal gland and interrupts the flow of blood, killing any cancer cells growing there.

  • NanoKnife® (Irreversible Electroporation or IRE) 

    Sylvester was the first provider in Florida and is one of only a handful in the world to provide this treatment for selected primary tumors considered inoperable. Not technically surgery, the procedure is an advanced type of radiation therapy. Under CT scan or ultrasound guidance, our interventional radiologists insert electrodes on or near the tumor. NanoKnife sends intense, electric pulses directly to the tumor, which causes cancer cells to die while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. 

  • Radiation Therapy 

    IMRT (Intensity modulated radiation therapy) is a type of external-beam radiation therapy. It creates a 3D beam matched to the shape of a tumor. It’s often an ideal choice for adrenal gland tumors, which are irregularly shaped. Radiation specialists also can vary the amount of radiation in each beam targeted at the tumor. The precise control and flexibility of IMRT minimize the amount of radiation to nearby healthy tissue. For adrenocortical cancer, radiation is given externally.

  • Chemotherapy (Systemic Medical Therapy) 

    Chemotherapy is cancer-fighting medicine given as a pill or intravenously (via a needle). In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. 

  • Locations: If you need intravenous (infusion) chemotherapy, you can have it at the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (CTU) at Sylvester’s main location in Miami, a 12,000-square-foot unit that includes 33 recliners and 11 private rooms. If you prefer, you may have your infusion treatments at the Kendall, Plantation, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Coral Gables, or Deerfield Beach locations.

  • Hormone-Regulating Therapy 

    If you have pheochromocytoma of the adrenal medulla that causes symptoms, these are treated with drug therapy, starting at diagnosis. Usually, drug therapy is used one to three weeks before surgery. Therapy may include:

    • Medicines that keep blood pressure normal: One type of medicine, alpha-blockers, stop noradrenaline from narrowing small blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow.

    • Medicines that regulate heart rate: Beta-blockers block the effect of the hormone noradrenaline to slow down your heart rate and restore a regular heartbeat.

    • Medicines that block the effect of extra hormones made by the adrenal gland: Your body may secrete additional hormones that need to be blocked. Our expert endocrinologists will regulate your hormone production as needed.

  • Targeted Therapy

    Targeted therapies are medicines that stop a cancer cell's ability to grow and spread. They target only cancer cells, rather than all rapidly growing cells, such as with chemotherapy. Adrenocortical cancers that don't respond to the usual treatments may be treated with targeted therapy. Medicines are taken at home as a pill once a day. Doctors use targeted therapies to treat both metastatic and recurrent pheochromocytoma.

  • Immunotherapy (Biologic Therapy) 

    This treatment uses substances made by your body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct or restore your natural defenses against cancer.


Tests

  • Blood and Urine Tests 

    Sylvester is the only center in South Florida with a specialty Endocrine Testing Center. Located at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the center is staffed by specialized nurses and technical assistants who perform complex hormone tests. 

  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography)

    A CT scan, also called a CAT scan, takes a series of detailed pictures of inside your body, taken from different angles. It's used to determine the extent of cancer and plan treatment. 

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) 

    MRI combines a magnet, radio waves and a computer to create a series of detailed pictures of the inside of your body. As with CT scans, MRI can help to determine the extent of cancer and plan treatment.

  • PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography) 

    A PET scan is an imaging test that uses a special radioactive dye (tracer). The dye is injected into a vein in your arm, and your organs and tissues absorb it. If cancer cells are present, they appear brighter than normal cells.

  • Adrenal Angiography 

    This procedure allows your doctor to see your arteries and examine blood flow near your adrenal glands. Before the exam, you receive an injection of contrast dye in your adrenal arteries. As the dye moves through your arteries, a series of X-rays are taken to see if any arteries are blocked.

  • Adrenal Venography/Vein Sampling 

    Similar to adrenal angiography, this exam looks at your adrenal veins and blood flow using contrast dye and X-rays. In some instances, a catheter (thin, flexible tube) may be inserted into your vein to take a blood sample, which is checked for abnormal hormone levels

  • MIBG Scan

    This scan is done by injecting a very small amount of radioactive material (MIBG) into your vein, which travels through your bloodstream. Adrenal gland cells absorb the radioactive material, and the cells are detected by a device that measures radiation. This scan helps your doctor tell the difference between adrenocortical carcinoma and pheochromocytoma of the medulla.

  • Biopsy 

    A biopsy removes a small part of the suspicious area to analyze. Also, we might recommend an adrenalectomy (removal of a whole adrenal gland) to determine the type and stage of disease.

  • Multigene Tests 

    Because no tumor has a single mutation, genomic profiling allows the pathologist to identify groups of mutations in your tumor tissue sample and create a tumor profile for you.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • CompCare (Comprehensive Behavioral Care)
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Global Health Claims Services
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana HUMx
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care