Your treatment options for adrenocortical carcinomaWhat is adrenocortical carcinoma?

Adrenocortical carcinoma is essentially a rare disease whereby the outer layer of adrenal gland is lined with malignant/ cancer cells. The body has two adrenal glands, which have a triangle shape and are small in size. One of them is found atop the kidneys and its outer layer is known as the adrenal cortex and the center features the adrenal medulla. Adrenal cortex is responsible for making important hormones which:

  •  Balance the salt and water in the body
  •  Helps in normalizing the blood pressure
  •  Helps in managing how the body uses fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
  •  Gives the body its feminine or masculine characteristics
  • Adrenal medulla on the other hand makes hormones, which assist the body to react to stress.

Adrenocortical carcinoma or cancer of adrenal cortex involves a tumor in the gland which makes much more hormones than the normal amount. The tumor could also be nonfunctioning whereby it doesn’t make any hormones at all. Pheochromocytoma is the cancer forming in adrenal medulla. The presence of certain genetic conditions in the body usually increases the risk of one getting adrenocortical carcinoma.

Diagnosing and detecting adrenocortical carcinoma

There are many symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma, including lower sex drive, growth of the breast tissue and impotence e.t.c. Tests for examining the urine and blood and imaging studies are used in diagnosis of adrenocortical carcinoma. The kind of testing procedures used in the detection will depend on the symptoms prevalent and the doctor will determine the best way to detect the problem.

Treatment for adrenocortical carcinoma

There are three standard treatments available for adrenocortical carcinoma, which includes:


A surgical procedure is undertaken for removing the adrenal gland and this is usually a viable treatment for adrenocortical carcinoma. Depending on the situation, there are times when the lymph nodes at the nearby might be removed as well.

Radiation therapy

When it comes to radiation therapy, high energy x-rays are used for killing the cancerous cells and stopping them from growing. Radiation therapy is available in two types. External radiation therapy makes use of a machine placed outside the body and which sends radiations to the cancer. Then there is internal radiation therapy, which makes use of a radioactive substance that is sealed in wires, catheters, needles or seeds. The actual way in which radiation therapy will be given will mainly depend on the stage and type of cancer in question.


During chemotherapy, drugs are used to inhibit growth of the cancer cells by ensuring that they don’t divide or killing them completely. Chemotherapy can be taken oral via the mouth or may be injected into the muscle or vein.

Other new treatments for adrenocortical carcinoma are being tested currently in clinical trials such as biologic therapy which a patient may decide to participate in.