Adrenocortical Carcinoma

At a Glance

Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare cancer that forms in the outer layer of tissue of the adrenal gland. Cancer of the adrenal cortex and Adrenocortical cancer are the two terms for the same disease. It’s a rare tumor that affects only 1 to 2 persons per one million populations. It usually occurs in adults, and the median age at diagnosis is 44 years. Most noteworthy, adrenal carcinoma is potentially curable at early stages. Yet, only 30% of these malignancies are confined to the adrenal gland at the time of diagnosis.

What are Adrenal Glands

There are two adrenal glands, which are small and shaped like a triangle. One adrenal gland sits on top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland has two parts. Most noteworthy is the outer layer of the adrenal gland is the adrenal cortex. The center of the adrenal gland is the adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex makes important hormones that:
  • Balance the water and salt in the body.
  • Help keep blood pressure normal.
  • Help manage the body’s use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  • Cause the body to have masculine or feminine characteristics.
  • Makes hormones that help the body react to stress.
A tumor of the adrenal cortex may be functioning (makes more hormones than normal) or nonfunctioning (does not make hormones). As a result, the hormones made by functioning tumors may cause certain signs or symptoms of disease. Cancer that forms in the adrenal medulla is called pheochromocytoma.

Risk Factors

Surprisingly, having certain genetic conditions increases the risk of developing adrenocortical carcinoma. Risk factors for adrenocortical carcinoma include having the following hereditary diseases:
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
  • Carney complex.

Signs and Symptoms

Possible signs of adrenocortical carcinoma include pain in the abdomen and certain physical changes. As a result, these and other symptoms may be caused by adrenocortical carcinoma:
  • A lump in the abdomen.
  • Pain the abdomen or back.
A nonfunctioning adrenocortical tumor may not cause symptoms in the early stages. However, a functioning adrenocortical tumor makes too much of a certain hormone (cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, or estrogen). Too much cortisol may cause:
  • Weight gain in the face, neck, and trunk of the body and thin arms and legs.
  • Growth of fine hair on the face, upper back, or arms.
  • A round, red, full face.
  • A lump of fat on the back of the neck.
  • A deepening of the voice and swelling of the sex organs or breasts in both males and females.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • High blood sugar.
  • Along with, high blood pressure.
Too much aldosterone may cause:
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle weakness or cramps.
  • Frequent urination.
  • However, Feeling thirsty.
Too much testosterone (in women) may cause:
  • Growth of fine hair on the face, upper back, or arms.
  • Balding.
  • Acne
  • A deepening of the voice.
  • No menstrual periods.
Men who make too much testosterone do not usually have symptoms. Too much estrogen (in women) may cause:
  • Irregular menstrual periods in women who have not gone through menopause.
  • Menstrual bleeding in women who have gone through menopause.
Too much estrogen (in men) may cause:
    • Growth of breast tissue.
    • Lower sex drive.
    • Impotence.

 Learn how is Adrenal Cancer Diagnosed

If you have been diagnosed with Adrenocortical Carcinoma, contact us to request an appointment for a second opinion with one of our oncologists or to learn more about your treatment options.