Cushing syndrome due to adrenal tumor is an endocrine system disorder. It occurs when a tumor of the adrenal gland releases excess amounts of the hormone cortisol.
Adrenal tumor - Cushing syndrome
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
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. In children with high cortisol levels, adrenal tumors are more common than pituitary tumors or ectopic ACTH secretion. In adults, adrenal tumors are less likely to be the cause of high cortisol levels. Pituitary tumors (Cushing's disease) are more often seen in adults. Adrenal tumors are found in women more often than in men.
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.
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.
Cancerous adrenal tumors can spread to the liver or lungs.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you develop any symptoms of Cushing syndrome.
Appropriate treatment of adrenal tumors may reduce the risk of complications in some patients with tumor-related Cushing syndrome.
Stewart PM, Krone NP. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2011:chap 15.
Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.