Main AHCA Website

AHCA’s main website for information on Medicaid, Health Quality Assurance and the Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency.

Go >

Florida Health Information Network

This website provides information and resources relating to AHCA’s initiatives for Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange.

Go >

Provides health education and information to compare and locate health care providers in Florida to make well-informed health care decisions.

Go >
AHCA Network of Websites

Health Education

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Adrenocortical carcinoma


Adrenocortical carcinoma is a cancer of the adrenal glands.

Alternative Names

Tumor - adrenal


Adrenocortical carcinoma is most common in children younger than 5 years old and adults in their 30s and 40s.

The condition may be linked to a cancer syndrome that is passed down through families (inherited). Both men and women can develop this tumor.

Adrenocortical carcinoma can produce the hormones cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen, or testosterone, as well as other hormones. In women the tumor often releases these hormones, which can lead to male characteristics.

Adrenocortical carcinoma is very rare. The cause is unknown. About 2 people per million develop this type of tumor.


Symptoms of increased cortisol or other adrenal gland hormones:

  • Fatty, rounded hump high on the back just below the neck (buffalo hump)
  • Flushed, rounded face with pudgy cheeks (moon face)
  • Obesity
  • Stunted growth (short stature)
  • Virilization - the appearance of male characteristics, including increased body hair (especially on the face), pubic hair, acne, deepening of the voice, and enlarged clitoris (girls)

Symptoms of increased aldosterone are the same as symptoms of low potassium, and include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness

Exams and Tests

The doctor or nurse will examine you. You may have high blood pressure and changes in body shape, such as breast growth in men (gynecomastia) or male signs in women (virilization). Blood tests will be done to check hormone levels:

  • ACTH level will be low.
  • Aldosterone level will be high.
  • Cortisol level will be high.
  • Potassium level will be low.
  • Male or female hormones may be abnormally high.

Imaging tests may include:


Primary treatment is surgery to remove the tumor. Adrenocortical carcinoma may not improve with chemotherapy. Medications may be given to reduce production of cortisol, which causes many of the symptoms.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome depends on how early the diagnosis is made and whether the tumor has spread (metastasized). Tumors that have spread usually lead to death within 1 to 3 years.

Possible Complications

The tumor can spread to the liver, bone, lung, or other areas.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma, Cushing syndrome, or failure to grow.


National Comprehensive Cancer Network. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Neuroendocrine tumors. 2012. Version 1.2012.

Nieman LK. Adrenal cortex. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 234.

Review Date:8/31/2014
Reviewed By:Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback
1. Did you find this information useful?

2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?