About Adrenocortical Carcinoma


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Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the adrenal gland.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of adrenocortical carcinoma:

  • Lump in the abdomen
  • Pain the abdomen or back
  • Feeling full in the abdomen

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about adrenocortical carcinoma from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of the Adrenal Gland

image of the adrenal glands
There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. The outer part of each gland is the adrenal cortex; the inner part is the adrenal medulla.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment: 

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Urologic Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for people with adrenocortical cancer. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of urologic cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments and cancer screenings.

Find an Adrenocortical Carcinoma Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

These are risk factors for adrenocortical carcinoma:

  • Having certain hereditary diseases

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about family history and genetic counseling.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Doctors use these tests to diagnose adrenocortical carcinoma:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Laboratory tests: Through testing body tissues, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the liver and other organs are functioning. They can also look for substances that cells produce when cancer is present.
  • Imaging tests: Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs. Your health care provider may inject or have you swallow a dye to help see the images.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Stages of Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Cancer stages show whether cancer has spread within or around the adrenal glands or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

These are the stages used for adrenocortical carcinoma:

  • Stage I: Tumor is 5 centimeters or smaller, found in the adrenal gland only
  • Stage II: Tumor is larger than 5 centimeters, found in the adrenal gland only
  • Stage III: Tumor can be any size and has spread to fat, lymph nodes, or nearby tissues
  • Stage IV: Tumor can be any size and has spread to nearby tissues or to other parts of the body

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if adrenocortical carcinoma spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually adrenocortical carcinoma cells. The disease is metastatic adrenocortical carcinoma, not bone cancer.

Learn more about the stages of adrenocortical carcinoma from the National Cancer Institute.