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Alternative Names Return to topAdrenal tumor - Cushing syndrome
Definition Return to top
Cushing syndrome due to adrenal tumor is an endocrine system disorder that occurs when there is a tumor of the adrenal gland releasing excess amounts of the hormone cortisol.
Causes Return to top
Cushing syndrome is caused by constant, high levels of the steroid hormone cortisol. A tumor on one of the adrenal glands causes about 15% of all cases of Cushing syndrome. Adrenal tumors release cortisol.
Adrenal tumors may be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).
Noncancerous tumors that may cause Cushing syndrome include:
Cancerous tumors that may cause Cushing syndrome include:
Adrenal tumors are rare. They may develop in anyone at any age, but are much more common in adults. They are found in women more often than men.
Symptoms Return to top
Patients with a cancerous adrenal tumor may also have symptoms of higher than normal male hormone (androgen) levels, including:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Tests to confirm Cushing syndrome:
Tests to determine cause:
Other findings may include:
Treatment Return to top
Cushing syndrome due to an adrenal tumor is treated with surgery to remove the tumor and often the entire adrenal gland.
Glucocorticoid replacement treatment is usually needed until the other adrenal gland recovers from surgery. You may need this treatment for 9 - 12 months.
If surgery is not possible (such as in cases of adrenal cancer), medicines can be used to stop the release of cortisol. These include:
Radiation therapy usually does not work for cancerous adrenal tumors and is not appropriate for noncancerous tumors.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Patients with an adrenal tumor who have surgery have an excellent outlook. Surgery success rates are very high with this type of tumor.
For adrenal cancer, surgery is sometimes not possible. When surgery is performed, it does not always cure the cancer.
Possible Complications Return to top
Cancerous adrenal tumors can spread to the liver or lungs.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you develop any symptoms of Cushing syndrome.
Prevention Return to top
Appropriate treatment of adrenal tumors may reduce the risk of complications in some patients with tumor-related Cushing syndrome.
References Return to top
Stewart PM. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2008:chap 14.Update Date: 3/18/2008 Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.