Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Treating adrenal cancer at Scripps Health

Learn about treatment options at Scripps for adrenocortical cancer.

Treating adrenal cancer at Scripps Health

Adrenocortical carcinoma, also called adrenocortical cancer or cancer of the adrenal cortex, is a rare form of cancer that originates in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Adrenal glands are organs located above each kidney that produce steroid hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline to control heart rate, blood pressure, and other body functions.

Learn more about:

Detection and diagnosis of adrenal cancer

Tests and exams performed to detect and diagnose adrenocorticol carcinoma may include:

  • Low-dose or high-dose dexamethasone suppression test, a test in which the patient receives one or more doses of dexamethasone — a synthetic steroid. The level of cortisol — a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands — is checked from a sample of blood or from urine that is collected for three days.
  • Blood chemistry study.
  • Adrenal angiography, which is a procedure in which contrast dye is injected and followed by X-ray imaging to see if the flow of blood through arteries near the adrenal glands may be blocked by an abnormal growth.
  • Adrenal venography, a venogram procedure in which an injection of contrast dye is followed by X-ray imaging to see if the flow of blood through adrenal veins or those near the adrenal glands may be blocked by an abnormal growth. A catheter may also be inserted into the vein to remove a blood sample to check for abnormal hormone levels.
  • MIBG scintisan, a test in which a radioactive substance that attaches to specific types of cancer cells is administered and imaging equipment is used to detect where the substance has collected in the body.

Adrenal cancer treatment

Treatment of adrenocorticol carcinoma may include:


Adrenalectomy is a procedure during which the adrenal gland is removed. Nearby lymph nodes and other surrounding tissue may also be removed during this surgery. Depending on the size of the tumor, an adrenalectomy may be performed traditionally or laparoscopically, which is a minimally invasive surgical approach that involves several small incisions rather than a larger single incision.


Chemotherapy may be provided alone or in combination with a hormone antagonist to attack malignant adrenal gland tumors as a primary treatment. The most common chemotherapy drugs used in combination with hormone antagonists drugs are cisplatin, doxorubicin, etoposide and streptozocin.

Scripps offers chemotherapy and infusion services at locations throughout San Diego County at Scripps hospitals, clinics and through Scripps physician offices.

Systemic therapy

A drug called mitotane may be used with or without chemotherapy when a malignant adrenal gland tumor cannot be fully removed by surgery. Mitotane is a hormone antagonist that reduces the amount of hormone made by the adrenal cortex.

Support services

To enhance the care of people dealing with adrenocortical carcinoma, Scripps Health also offers the patient support services.