Adrenocortical Carcinoma

(Cancer of the Adrenal Cortex; Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma; Adrenal Cancer)

Definition

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.
Anatomy of the Adrenal Glands
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Causes

The cause of adrenocortical carcinoma is unknown.

Risk Factors

There are few known risk factors for cancers of the adrenal cortex. A genetic defect may cause adrenocortical cancer in some children, but the majority of cases are nonhereditary.

Symptoms

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:
  • Pain in the abdomen, side, and/or back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unintended weight loss

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms. A medical and family history will be collected. A physical exam will be done.Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
Images may be needed of your bodily structures. These can be made with: After cancer of the adrenal cortex is confirmed, you will be referred to an oncologist. This is a cancer specialist.Additional testing will be done to determine what stage the cancer has reached. The stage of a tumor is determined by its size and how far it has spread from its point of origin.

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