Adrenocortical Carcinoma Treatment
Stages of Adrenocortical Carcinoma
Key Points for this Section
After adrenocortical carcinoma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the adrenal gland or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the adrenal gland or to other
parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the
staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know
the stage in order to plan treatment. The following tests and
procedures may be used in the staging process:
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the abdomen or chest, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with gadolinium: A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. A substance called gadolinium may be injected into a vein. The gadolinium collects around the cancer cells so they show up brighter in the picture. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
- Adrenal angiography: A procedure to look at the arteries and the flow of blood near the adrenal gland. A contrast dye is injected into the adrenal arteries. As the dye moves through the blood vessel, a series of x-rays are taken to see if any arteries are blocked.
- Adrenal venography: A procedure to look at the adrenal veins and the flow of blood near the adrenal gland. A contrast dye is injected into an adrenal vein. As the contrast dye moves through the vein, x-rays are taken to see if any veins are blocked. A catheter (very thin tube) may be inserted into the vein to take a blood sample, which is checked for abnormal hormone levels.
- Cavagram: A procedure to look at the inferior vena cava and the flow of blood through the inferior vena cava. A contrast dye is injected into a blood vessel. As the contrast dye moves through the blood vessel to the inferior vena cava, a series of x-rays are taken to see if there are any changes to the inferior vena cava and the flow of blood through the inferior vena cava.
- Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs, such as the vena cava, and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.
- Adrenalectomy: A procedure to remove the entire adrenal gland. A tissue sample is viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:
- Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
- Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
- Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.
When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.
The following stages are used for adrenocortical carcinoma:
Pea, peanut, walnut, and lime show tumor sizes.
In stage I, the tumor is 5 centimeters or smaller and is found only in the adrenal gland.
In stage II, the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and is found only in the adrenal gland.
In stage III, the tumor can be any size and may have spread to fat or lymph nodes near the adrenal gland.
In stage IV, the tumor can be any size and has spread: