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What Is Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma?

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   2 min     

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The adrenal cortex is the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Cancerous growth in it causes adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC), which is a rare disease.  The adrenal glands are placed on the top of the kidneys and are an important key in the endocrine system because it produces and regulates hormones.

The adrenal cortex perched peacefully on the kidneys produces hormones that control and regulates bodily functions like metabolism and blood pressure. The main hormones it produces are cortisol and androgens (male hormone e.g.  Testosterone). Therefore, this condition may trigger excessive production of these hormones and cause health problems.

What Causes an Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma?

The main cause of ACC is still unknown. But studies suggest it to be secondary cancer. A secondary cancer is a cancer that is formed when another form of cancer spreads to it, in the case of ACC when cancer spreads to the adrenal glands.

Types of Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma:

There are two main types of adrenal cortical carcinomas: 

  • Functioning tumors: these increase the production of adrenal hormones which include cortisol and aldosterone. 

  • Non Functioning tumors: these tumors have no effect whatsoever on the production of adrenal hormones. 

Symptoms of an Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma:

The symptoms depend on the hormones produced in excess like:

1. Cortisol:

  • Weakening of muscles.

  • High blood sugar level.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Muscle weakness.

  • Bruises on the body.

  • Excessive weight gain.

  • Pain in the chest and abdomen.

2. Testosterone and other androgens:

  • Excessive facial hair.

  • Deep voice in females.

3. Estrogen:

  • Early puberty in children.

  • Breast in males.

4. Aldosterone:

  • Obesity.

  • High blood pressure

Diagnosis of Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma:

The diagnosis starts with a  physical examination and lab tests to check hormone levels using saliva, blood, and urine samples. Besides, the doctor may go for imaging tests to look for a tumor on/in your adrenal glands. These tests may include:

  • CT scan (computed tomography scan)

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)

If the tumor is diagnosed, the next step is to perform a biopsy by examining a small part of tissue. This helps in knowing if the tumor is benign or malignant. Most cases of adrenal cortical carcinoma are benign and malignant ones are rare. 

Treatment: 

The treatment depends on various factors like the stage of tumor, health of the individual etc. Some common treatment methods are: 

  • Surgical removal of adrenal gland and surrounding tissue. 

  • Chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells. 

  • Radiation therapy. 

  • Biologic therapy which uses the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. 



Tags:  cancer,

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