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Adrenocortical Carcinoma

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by Barrett A

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



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.


Treatment depends on the stage of the tumor and your overall health. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.
The following methods are used to treat cancer of the adrenal cortex:

Adrenalectomy Surgery to Remove the Tumor

Surgery to remove the adrenal tumor is the first treatment approach for most cases. Surrounding tissues or lymph nodes that contain cancer cells may also need to be removed.

Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy

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.

Other Therapies

  • 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.


American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute



BC Cancer Agency

Canadian Cancer Society



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Adrenal cortical carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 14, 2013. Accessed May 27, 2014.

Adrenocortical carcinoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed May 27, 2014.

Adrenocortical carcinoma: treatment statement for health professionals. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated November 15, 2012. Accessed May 27, 2014.

Allolio B, Fassnacht M. Adrencortical carcinoma: clinical update. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006;91:2027-37.

Detailed guide: adrenal cortical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed May 27, 2014.

Kirschner LS. Review: emerging treatment strategies for adrnocortical carcinoma: a new hope. J Clin Endocinol Metab. 2006;91:14-21.

Van Ditzhuijsen cI, van de Weijer R, Haak HR: Adrenocortical carcinoma. Neth J Med. 2007;65:55-60.


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