Metastatic Disease to the Adrenal: Signs and Symptoms

Nearly all patients who develop an adrenal metastasis will have a history of a prior cancer, usually one of the common cancers listed above that has a tendency to spread to the adrenal gland. It is very rare for metastatic cancer to show up first in the adrenal gland all by itself without prior warning. Therefore, patients who develop an adrenal metastasis often have their tumor identified by routine studies performed for follow-up of their underlying cancer, for example by CT scan or PET scan. Sometimes a patient will have symptoms related to the growth of their adrenal metastasis, for example abdominal or back discomfort. Rarely, if both adrenal glands are involved with metastases, a patient may develop symptoms related to insufficient production of steroid hormones by the involved adrenal glands (adrenal insufficiency or Addisonian crisis). Adrenal insufficiency is characterized by weakness, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, low blood sodium and high potassium levels, and darkening of the skin and creases on the palms.