(Cancer of the Adrenal Cortex; Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma; Adrenal Cancer)
Amanda Barrett, MA
Adrenocortical carcinoma is cancer of the adrenal cortex. The adrenal glands are two glands located above each kidney. The glands produce important hormones. These hormones regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and many other vital functions, including response to stress and infection. The adrenal cortex is the outside layer of the two adrenal glands.
Cancers of the adrenal cortex are rare. The majority of these tumors produce excess hormones. The excess hormones can change hormonal balance.
Approximately 40% of people with adrenocortical carcinoma do not secrete any hormone. These people do not have any specific symptoms. Adrenocortical carcinoma is discovered as part of a physical examination for abdominal pain.
Other tumors are hormonally active. Excess hormones may produce symptoms such as:
These treatments tend to be less effective in treating this type of cancer. They are most often used if the cancer has spread. Chemotherapy may also be used if there is a high chance the cancer will come back.
Mitotane is the drug most often used for this type of cancer, especially for hormonally active tumors. It blocks hormone production by the adrenal gland. It also destroys adrenal cancer cells. This drug does have serious side effects.
It is sometimes given in combination with other drugs.
Other hormone-blocking drugs may be given to control the symptoms of excess hormones.
Research of new drug and radiation therapies are under way. This includes gene and immunotherapy.
If treatment is successful, you will still need to be screened for reoccurrence of the cancer on a periodic basis.
Abiven G, Coste J, et al. Clinical and biological features in the prognosis of adrenocortical cancer: poor outcome of cortisol-secreting tumors in a series of 202 consecutive patients.
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Adrenal cortical carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated October 14, 2013. Accessed May 27, 2014.
Adrenocortical carcinoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed May 27, 2014.
Adrenocortical carcinoma: treatment statement for health professionals. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated November 15, 2012. Accessed May 27, 2014.