Last updated date: 13-Mar-2023
Originally Written in English
Eight glands make up the endocrine system, and the hormones they produce circulate throughout your body via the bloodstream. These hormones influence your body's functioning, including metabolism and growth, reproduction, and mood. Cells can develop into a tumor that is either benign (noncancerous) or cancerous when they alter and expand out of control. Most endocrine tumors develop slowly over years and are not malignant. The thyroid, parathyroid, pancreatic, and adrenal glands are all affected by conditions experienced endocrine specialists can identify and treat. At many cancer centers, experts combine programs and knowledge from every medical and surgical care branch to provide you with specialized, cutting-edge care.
Endocrine Cancer Types
Thyroid nodules typically do not progress to malignancy. These include thyroid cysts, toxic nodules that cause the thyroid to become hyperactive, and multinodular goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid caused by numerous nodules. Thyroid cancer comes in four main forms: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Early-stage thyroid carcinoma can be successfully treated.
The two tiny endocrine glands positioned above the kidneys are known as the adrenal glands. They react to nervous system impulses by secreting chemicals that control stress. Additionally, the adrenal glands produce hormones that enable distinguishing between male and female physical and sexual features as well as regulate metabolism. Two different types of tumors can grow on the adrenal glands:
- Benign tumors. Symptoms can usually be treated, and most growths are benign.
- Malignant tumors. Malignant adrenal tumors are uncommon and typically develop as a result of cancer had metastasized from another organ.
Adrenal tumors are more likely to occur in people with specific genetic disorders. These consist of:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Carney Complex
- Family history of adrenal tumors
To create hormones that control biological activities, the endocrine system receives signals from the brain and neurological system. Because of how interdependent these two systems are, they are frequently referred to as the neuroendocrine system. Neuroendocrine tumors are tumors that interfere with this system's cells' ability to function. The most common tumor forms are:
- Pheochromocytoma, which inhibits adrenaline production and frequently appears in the adrenal glands,
- Neuroendocrine tumors are the general name for tumors that interfere with hormone production in vital organs (such as the pancreas)
People are more likely to get these tumors as a result of the following factors:
- Gender. Pheochromocytoma is more common in men than in women.
- Age. Patients with pheochromocytoma often range in age from 40 to 60.
There are four pea-sized parathyroid glands in the neck close to the thyroid. They release parathyroid hormone (PTH), which controls the body's calcium levels. Hyperparathyroidism, often known as tumors, can develop inside the parathyroid tissues and tend to grow extremely slowly, influencing the body by overproducing PTH. the majority of tumors are benign parathyroid tumors (not cancerous). In reality, there have only been a few hundred cases of parathyroid cancer identified.
There are no other factors outside genetics that increase a person's risk of acquiring parathyroid cancer. Some parathyroid cancer patients had parathyroid adenomas or hyperplasia before developing the disease.
The pituitary gland, which is about the size of a pea and is located near the bottom center of the brain, secretes hormones that promote the regular function of other endocrine glands. Growth, reproduction, blood pressure, and metabolic processes are all regulated by the pituitary gland.
Growths on the gland are known as pituitary tumors. Pituitary tumors may result in either excessive or insufficient hormone production. The majority of the time, these tumors are benign and do not spread. Certain factors put some people at an increased risk of developing pituitary tumors. These may consist of:
- Patients are mainly older patients.
- Family history
The islet and gastrin-producing cells that give rise to pancreatic endocrine tumors frequently produce a wide range of hormones. These tumors can arise in other organs, especially the duodenum, jejunum, and lung, even though the pancreas is where they most frequently develop. There are two common forms of these tumors:
Non-functioning tumors might result in abdominal masses, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, biliary tract obstruction, or duodenal obstruction symptoms.
A specific hormone is oversecreted by functioning tumors, which results in several diseases. These clinical symptoms can also be present in multiple endocrine neoplasia, a condition in which two or more endocrine glands, typically the parathyroid, pituitary, thyroid, or adrenals, are affected by tumors or hyperplasia.
Endocrine Tumor Symptoms
Thyroid Tumor Symptoms
Unfortunately, thyroid cancer frequently has no symptoms at all. A lump or swelling in the neck is the most prevalent thyroid cancer symptom that people experience. Other signs of the condition include trouble swallowing, neck or throat pain, or a persistent hoarse voice. Thyroid cancer may also be suggested by swollen lymph nodes in the neck or by persistent pain in the neck and throat. Thyroid cancer can affect anyone, but several things make someone more likely to have it. These components comprise:
- Between the ages of 25 and 65.
- Being a woman.
- The Caucasian race.
- Having a thyroid condition-affected family member.
Radiation exposure, especially when one was young. The radiation exposure could result from radiation therapy for another cancer or exposure to a nuclear reactor accident. The greatest risk of thyroid cancer from radiation is among cancer survivors of childhood who received high-dose radiation therapy. The risk of thyroid cancer is around three times higher in women than in males, and most cases affect those under the age of 55.
Pituitary Tumor Symptoms
Pituitary tumor-related issues can be divided into three categories:
- A functioning pituitary tumor causes hypersecretion, which is when the body produces excessive amounts of any hormone.
- A big pituitary tumor can prevent the pituitary gland from producing enough of any one of the pituitary hormones, resulting in a hormone deficit. Additionally, radiation treatment for a tumor or pituitary surgery might cause hypopituitarism.
- Effects of the tumor mass. A pituitary tumor may result in headaches, vision issues, or other health issues when it grows and pushes against the pituitary gland or other parts of the brain.
Depending on whether hormonal fluctuations (either too much or too little hormone) or the tumor bulk is to blame, pituitary tumor symptoms change. Also different from person to person are the symptoms. There is a long variety of possible symptoms. Headaches and vision issues, particularly with peripheral vision, are signs of tumor mass pressure. Fatigue, lightheadedness, dry skin, irregular periods in women, and erectile dysfunction in males are signs of low pituitary hormone levels.
Other symptoms vary depending on which hormone is involved. Cushing's disease may be caused by tumors that produce ACTH. Acromegaly can be caused by tumors that make growth hormone. Women who have prolactin-producing tumors (prolactinomas) may experience irregular or absent menstrual cycles. Even if a woman is not pregnant, they can still make her breasts produce milk. These tumors in men can affect sex and enlarge the breasts. Significant health concerns can result from these diseases.
Adrenal Tumor Symptoms
The hormones that help control body functioning are made by the adrenal cortex. Adrenocortical carcinoma may occasionally interfere with the production of hormones and result in symptoms. When an adrenal cortex tumor is active, this happens. Hormone abnormalities won't result from a non-functioning tumor. Patients may exhibit one of the following:
- Symptoms caused by excessive hormone production
- Flank ache, fullness, or pain in the abdomen
- Although there are no symptoms, the tumor is discovered during an incidental workup.
The hormones secreted determine the symptoms caused by hormone secretion. Most tumors that release hormones do so in the form of androgens, cortisol, or a mix of the two. Excess hormone symptoms may include:
- Cortisol and other glucocorticoids. causing Cushing's syndrome symptoms including muscular weakness, hyperglycemia, and weight gain.
- Testosterone, an androgen. causing no symptoms in men, but causing alterations in the menstrual cycle, baldness, acne, and increased body hair growth in women.
- Estrogens (rare). Male breast tissue development and female irregular menstruation.
- Mineralocorticoids. cause low potassium levels and elevated blood pressure.
Children are more likely than adults to experience obvious symptoms of hormone overproduction. Adrenal cortex tumors may not even cause any symptoms if they don't produce too many extra hormones. Symptoms might not appear until cancer has spread or grown in size.
Pancreatic Tumor Symptoms
Depending on the type of tumor, there are different pancreatic tumor symptoms.
The symptoms of insulinomas are related to the over-secretion of the hormone insulin. Extra insulin reduces blood sugar levels, and low blood sugar levels can cause spells of weakness, lethargy, shakiness, confusion, twitching muscles, seizures, or even collapse. The frequency of the episodes rises over time as the condition worsens.
The symptoms of adenocarcinomas may not be apparent until the disease has advanced significantly. Some patients will have pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) symptoms. This includes a loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain, weight loss, and occasionally skin yellowing (jaundice). You might notice your patient is limping or having difficulties breathing if the tumor has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body like the lungs or bones. Patients can experience inflammation in their joints or bones. These illnesses might cause pain that makes moving around challenging. On occasion, some patients will experience hair loss on their faces, inner thighs, and the underside of their abdomen.
Endocrine Tumor Diagnosis
Endocrine tumors can be diagnosed in a variety of ways. If you experience any hormonal changes, including a bump on the neck, it's crucial to consult your doctor. If you're a male, keep an eye out for any developing female characteristics, such as changes in your breast size. If you're a woman, keep an eye out for any signs or alterations that are typically associated with men, such as an increase in facial hair.
Certain tests help explain what's happening in your body if your doctor thinks you could have cancer. Doctors carefully review your data and take into account all circumstances because non-cancerous diseases can result in abnormal test results.
A fine-needle aspiration biopsy is one minimally invasive technique frequently used to diagnose thyroid nodules. Doctors also perform the following tests to identify endocrine tumors:
Physical exam. During a physical examination, doctors seek signs that anything is wrong with your body, including the presence of a tumor. These can be lumps in your lymph nodes, changes in the color of your skin, or the enlargement of an organ.
Checking for blood proteins. This test is used by doctors to examine the various proteins in your blood and determine whether any abnormal proteins are present.
Blood tests. To count the many blood cell types in your body, physicians use a blood test known as a complete blood count. Using this test, doctors can identify blood malignancies. To determine whether any chromosome changes could be carried by cancer, doctors also utilize cytogenetic analysis, a blood test that examines fluid, tissue, and cells. Flow cytometry and immunophenotyping are two other blood tests that doctors could use to detect malignancy.
Advanced imaging. Doctors utilize positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound scans to look for disease symptoms and determine whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body, like the lymph nodes or lungs.
Biopsy. This procedure allows medical professionals to look at the tissue under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer. A small sample of tissue is taken from the tumor location during a biopsy so that it may be examined in a lab. Cancer doctors can better plan your therapy based on the findings of a biopsy. Image-guided biopsy, fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, core needle biopsy, excisional biopsy, and endoscopic biopsy are only a few of the several types of biopsies available.
Endocrine Cancer Treatment
The staff begins working with you to address your unique condition and needs. Your care regimen may consist of:
Endocrine surgery. Numerous tumors can be identified, staged, and treated with surgery, such as minimally invasive parathyroid surgery. Doctors also use it to treat the symptoms brought on by tumors pressing against a bone or nerve. If your chance of getting cancer is great, doctors might advise surgery to remove organs or tissue before cancer appears. They also provide the most recent techniques in reconstructive surgery to help you rebuild the cancer-affected area of your body.
Infusion therapy. Through a catheter, the doctors inject fluids and medications into your bloodstream. Antibiotics, chemotherapy, and nutritional fluids are examples of medications.
Medical oncology. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy are all part of medical oncology. Before surgery, medical specialists treat tumors with the most advanced anti-cancer medications to eradicate cancerous cells, limit cancer growth, and reduce tumor size. To eliminate any cancer cells that may have survived surgery or other therapies, such as radiation, doctors occasionally use medication.
Radiation oncology. Numerous cancer types are targeted, eradicated, and reduced by medical professionals using radiotherapy. The procedures employ a linear accelerator to create precise, high-energy rays that precisely target the cancerous tissue while sparing healthy cells. Image-guided radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy, and 3D conformal radiotherapy are all examples of radiation oncology. In patients with thyroid disorders, radioactive iodine therapy is also used.
Stereotactic radiotherapy. For the treatment of pituitary cancer, this method is frequently employed. It is a precise type of radiation therapy that targets a tumor from various angles using several beams of varying intensities.
On rare occasions, a mutation, a change in the DNA, causes aberrant cells to proliferate in one of the endocrine glands, whereupon a tumor develops. While most endocrine tumors are benign (not malignant), a small percentage do develop into a malignancy. Endocrine tumors are substantially less frequent overall than other types of cancer. According to an endocrinologist thyroid cancer, endocrine cancer, is the fifth most prevalent cancer among women in the United States. Because hormones are so important for maintaining the body's equilibrium, endocrine tumors, whether benign or malignant, have the potential to be very harmful. They might therefore need some type of medical intervention, such as surgery or radiotherapy. Almost all endocrine cancers call for at least some testing and observation.