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Alternative Names Return to topTumor - adrenal
Definition Return to top
Adrenocortical carcinoma is a cancer of the adrenal glands.
Causes Return to top
Adrenocortical carcinoma is most common in children younger than 5 and adults in their 30s and 40s.
Adrenocortical carcinoma may be linked to a cancer syndrome that is passed down through families (inherited). Both men and women can develop this tumor. Adrenocortical carcinoma can produce the hormones cortisol, estrogen, or aldosterone. In women the tumor often releases the hormones, which can lead to male characteristics.
The cause is unknown. About 2 people per million develop this type of tumor.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms that suggest increased cortisol production:
Symptoms that suggest increased aldosterone production are the same as symptoms of low potassium and include weakness, muscle cramps, increased thirst, and urination.
Exams and Tests Return to top
A physical exam reveals high blood pressure. Blood work will be done to check hormone levels:
Imaging tests may include:
Treatment Return to top
Primary treatment is surgery to remove the tumor. Adrenocortical carcinoma may not improve with chemotherapy. Medications may be given to reduce production of cortisol, which causes many of the symptoms.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends on how early the diagnosis is made and whether the tumor has spread (metastasized). Tumors that have spread often lead to death within 1 to 3 years.
Possible Complications Return to top
The tumor can spread to the liver, bone, lung, or other areas.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma, Cushing syndrome, or failure to grow.
References Return to top
Lal G, O’Dorisio T, McDougall R, Weigel RJ. Cancer of the endocrine system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKena WG, eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 75.Update Date: 11/10/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.