Adrenal cancer, the cruel one-in-a-million disease suffered by Anna ‘Chickadee’ Cardwell that is only caught AFTER its too late in two-thirds of cases
Anna ‘Chickadee’ Cardwell was diagnosed with stage 4 adrenal cancer, her family announced Thursday.
The 28-year-old ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ star’s cancer has spread from the glands within her stomach into her liver, kidney and lungs. She received a series of tests that discovered cancerous growth after complaints of stomach pains.
Adrenal cancer is a rare but deadly form of the disease, with only a few hundred cases reported in the US annually. Less than one-hundred are suffered in the UK. In two-thirds of cases, it is caught after it has already spread to other organs.
It usually develops when a person is under five years old or between the ages of 40 and 50. This makes Chikadee’s case a rarity.
Anna ‘Chickadee’ Cardwell (pictured), 28, has been diagnosed with stage 4 adrenal cancer. She received her diagnosis in January and has already started treatment
Ms Cardwell (center) has two daughters. She rose to fame from the ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ reality television show
If caught early, it can be surgically removed, giving a patient a 50 percent chance of surviving at least five years. Once it spreads, the survival rate drastically falls — dropping to between 10 and 20 percent. Its low prevalence has made it harder to detect as doctors are not regularly screening for it.
‘[Adrenal cancer] continues to be a rare malignancy in the United States,’ a New York City-based research team wrote in 2018.
‘However, most cases continue to be diagnosed only in advanced stages and are associated with poor survival.’
The disease starts in the adrenal glands, small pockets just above a person’s kidneys that secrete the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline.
The glands are responsible for helping regulate a person’s heart rate and other functions related to the cardiovascular system. They also help activate a person’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response during high-stress situations.
The disease is thought to develop when the DNA of cells in the gland experience an unhealthy change and begins to replicate – though the exact cause is still unclear.
Like other cancers, malignant cells from the adrenal glands can break off and be carried by the circulatory system to another part of the body.
This causes cancer to spread, making it harder to treat and significantly more deadly.
The adrenal glands are small sacs just above the kidneys that are responsible for regulating that body’s adrenaline system.
Unlike many other cancers, doctors are not sure what exactly puts someone at an increased risk of suffering the disease. There are no known risk factors.
This is partly because the disease is so rare that research on it has not been as extensive as other cancers.
Around one in every 1million people will be diagnosed with it annually.
This means its US incidence rate falls around 350 cases every year.
The average age of diagnosis is 46 years old. Though, it is also known to appear in young children.
If the cancer is detected before it spreads to other parts of the body, then doctors will recommend surgery to remove it, according to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
In these cases, a patient has a five-year survival rate of between 50 to 60 percent.
If it spreads — like Chikadee’s reportedly has — the survival rate drops to between 10 to 20 percent, UCLA reports.
In these cases, a person will often be treated with chemotherapy.
Ms Cardwell’s case was reported by TMZ Thursday. Family sources told the outlet that the reality star received her diagnosis in January.
She underwent the first round of chemotherapy last month and has lost her hair, sources said.
Doctors are waiting to see how the treatment affects her before making any further decisions, but her family is ‘very hopeful’ she will overcome the disease.