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Cushing syndrome - ectopic
Cushing syndrome is the result of too much glucocorticoid hormones being released over a long period of time. About 15% of Cushing syndrome cases are due to ectopic Cushing syndrome.
Ectopic Cushing syndrome is caused by tumors that release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Other causes of Cushing syndrome are:
Tumors that can, in rare cases, release ACTH include:
Ectopic Cushing syndrome tends to have fewer symptoms than classic Cushing syndrome. Weight loss may occur due to cancer.
Symptoms of Cushing syndrome are:
Tests that may be done include:
The best treatment for ectopic Cushing syndrome is surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery is usually possible when the tumor is noncancerous (benign).
In some cases, the tumor is cancerous and spreads to other areas of the body before the health care provider can discover the problem with cortisol production. Surgery may not be possible in these cases, but the doctor may prescribe drugs to block cortisol production.
Surgery to remove the tumor may lead to full recovery, but there is a chance that the tumor will come back.
The tumor may spread or return after surgery. High cortisol levels may continue.
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of Cushing syndrome.
Prompt treatment of tumors may reduce the risk in some cases. Many cases are not preventable.
Stewart PM, Krone NP. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 15.