Adrenal tumor - Cushing syndrome
Cushing syndrome due to adrenal tumor is a form of Cushing syndrome. It occurs when a tumor of the adrenal gland releases excess amounts of the hormone cortisol.
Cushing syndrome is a disorder that occurs when your body has a higher than normal level of the hormone cortisol. This hormone is made in the adrenal glands. Too much cortisol can be due to various problems. One such problem is a tumor on one of the adrenal glands. Adrenal tumors release cortisol.
Adrenal tumors are rare. They can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).
Noncancerous tumors that can cause Cushing syndrome include:
Cancerous tumors that may cause Cushing syndrome include an adrenal carcinoma. This is a rare tumor, but it usually makes excess cortisol.
Most people with Cushing syndrome have:
Skin changes that are often seen:
Muscle and bone changes include:
Body-wide (systemic) changes include:
Women often have:
Men may have:
Other symptoms that may occur include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms.
Tests to confirm Cushing syndrome:
Tests to determine cause or complications include:
In some cases, you need a special test called adrenal vein sampling to determine which adrenal gland is making too much cortisol and causing Cushing syndrome.
Surgery is done to remove the adrenal tumor. Often, the entire adrenal gland is removed.
Glucocorticoid replacement treatment is usually needed until the other adrenal gland recovers from surgery. You may need this treatment for 3 to 12 months.
If surgery is not possible, such as in cases of adrenal cancer that has spread (metastasis), medicines can be used to stop the release of cortisol.
People with an adrenal tumor who have surgery have an excellent outlook. For adrenal cancer, surgery is sometimes not possible. When surgery is performed, it does not always cure the cancer.
Cancerous adrenal tumors can spread to the liver or lungs.
Call your provider if you develop any symptoms of Cushing syndrome.
Appropriate treatment of adrenal tumors may reduce the risk of complications in some people with adrenal tumor-related Cushing syndrome.
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Newell-Price JDC, Auchus RJ. The adrenal cortex. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 15.
Nieman LK, Biller BM, Findling JW, et al. Treatment of Cushing's syndrome: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(8):2807-2831. PMID: 26222757 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26222757/.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/13/2021
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Board Certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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