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Symptoms and Signs of Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Doctor's Notes on Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Adrenocortical carcinoma is a relatively rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form tumors from cells in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Signs and symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma may include a lump in the abdomen, pain in the abdomen or back and/or a feeling of abdominal fullness. The tumor cells may or ma not secrete the following hormones: cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, estrogen. Signs and symptoms of overproduction may be as follows:

  • Cortisol – weight gain, fine hair growth, round and reddish full face, lump of fat on back of neck, deepening voice, sex organ and/or breast swelling in both sexes, muscle weakness and high sugar and blood pressure
  • Aldosterone – high blood pressure, feeling thirsty, frequent urination, muscle weakness or cramps
  • Testosterone – Men usually have no symptoms, but in women, facial hair (and/or back, arms), acne, balding, no periods and voice deepening
  • Estrogen – in women, irregular periods, vaginal bleeding in post-menopause and weigh gain; in men, breast growth, lower sex drive and impotence

The exact cause of adrenocortical carcinoma is not known. Risk factors related to developing adrenocortical carcinoma include having the following hereditary diseases: Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Carney complex.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.