Adrenal Cancer

Treatment of Adrenal Cancer (Adrenocortical Carcinoma)

Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. The adrenal cortex makes important hormones that:

  • Balance the water and salt in the body.
  • Help keep blood pressure normal.
  • Help control the body's use of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
  • Cause the body to have masculine or feminine characteristics.

Adrenocortical carcinoma is also called cancer of the adrenal cortex. A tumor of the adrenal cortex may be functioning (makes more hormones than normal) or nonfunctioning (does not make more hormones than normal). Most adrenocortical tumors are functioning. The hormones made by functioning tumors may cause certain signs or symptoms of disease.

Symptoms of Adrenocortical Carcinoma

  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • A lump in the abdomen.
  • Pain in the abdomen or back.
  • A feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

A nonfunctioning adrenocortical tumor may not cause signs or symptoms in the early stages.

A functioning adrenocortical tumor makes too much of one of the following hormones:

  • Cortisol
  • Aldosterone
  • Testosterone
  • Estrogen

Diagnosis of Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Imaging studies and tests that examine the blood and urine are used to detect and diagnose adrenocortical carcinoma. Tests may depend on the patient's signs and symptoms. The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history
  • 24 hour urine test
  • Low-dose dexamethasone suppression test
  • High-dose dexamethasone suppression test
  • Blood chemistry study
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Adrenal venography
  • PET scan
  • MIBG scan
  • Biopsy

Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. New treatments being tested in clinical trials are immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

Information from the National Cancer Institute

Includes information about adrenal cancer, causes, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment.

Learn More: NCI

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