Adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare disease. It is caused by a cancerous growth in the adrenal cortex, which is the outer layer of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands lie on top of the kidneys. They play an important role in the endocrine system, which is the system that produces and regulates hormones.
Each adrenal gland has two parts. The outer layer of the adrenal gland is the adrenal cortex. The center of the adrenal gland is the adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex makes important hormones that:
- Balance the water and salt in the body
- Help keep blood pressure normal
- Help control the body’s use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates
- Cause the body to have masculine or feminine characteristics
The adrenal medulla makes hormones that help the body react to stress. Cancer that forms in the adrenal medulla is called pheochromocytoma.
Cancer that forms in the adrenal cortex is called adrenocortical carcinoma. A tumor of the adrenal cortex may be functioning (makes more hormones than normal) or nonfunctioning (does not make more hormones than normal). A functioning adrenocortical tumor makes too much of one of the following hormones: cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, or estrogen. Too much of any of these hormones can cause problems.
Symptoms of ACC include:
- A lump in the abdomen
- Pain in the abdomen or back
- A feeling of fullness in the abdomen