The team of the Endocrine and Neuroendocrine Tumor Program diagnoses and treats adrenocortical cancer, a malignant form of cancer that originates in the adrenal gland. These tumors often grow quite large before the cancer causes symptoms and can metastasize, or spread, from the adrenal gland into the liver, lungs, brain or bones.
Adrenocortical tumors can produce hormones, the most common of which is cortisol. High levels of cortisol may cause patients to develop Cushing's syndrome, characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, edema, muscle weakness, thin skin, easy bruising and increased blood sugar.
Following a physical exam, patients that may have adrenocortical cancer undergo blood and urine tests. If cancer cells are found in the blood, imaging studies such as computed tomography (CAT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used to determine the location of the tumor and check for metastases. Diagnostic imaging devices can detect adrenocortical cancer effectively, so needle biopsies of these tumors are generally not recommended.
Treatment for Adrenocortical Cancer
If a patient has early adrenocortical cancer without metastasis or has symptoms caused by steroid excess, surgical removal of the tumor is recommended. An open surgical procedure is recommended as this technique has low recurrence rates in tumor patients. Following surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy may be recommended, depending on the stage of disease.
Prognosis for adrenocortical cancer varies depending on the stage of disease and whether complete removal of the tumor is possible. A multidisciplinary approach to adrenocortical cancer is important to provide optimal care and cure rates.