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Open access

E Bahaeldein and M J Brassill

Summary

Postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is a relatively rare diagnosis resulting from excess androgen production from the adrenals or ovaries. The exclusion of malignant causes is a priority. Laboratory tests and imaging are utilised to help differentiate the source of excess androgens. We report two cases of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism in women aged 75 and 67 years. Both cases presented with clinical features suggestive of hyperandrogenism which had developed gradually over the previous 2 years. Laboratory investigations confirmed a significant elevation in their serum testosterone levels. In both cases, imaging did not reveal any abnormality of the adrenals or ovaries. To help differentiate an adrenal vs ovarian source a single-dose GnRH analogue was given with measurement of testosterone and gonadotrophin levels pre and post. The reduction in gonadotrophins achieved by the GnRH analogue resulted in suppression of testosterone levels which suggested an ovarian source. Both patients proceeded to bilateral oophorectomy. Histology revealed a benign hilus cell tumour in one case and a benign Leydig cell tumour in the other.

Learning points:

  • A key part of the work-up of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is to differentiate between an adrenal or an ovarian source of excess androgens;

  • Imaging may not identify small ovarian tumours or hyperthecosis and may also identify incidental adrenal masses which are non-functioning;

  • Current guidelines suggest ovarian and adrenal venous sampling when imaging is inconclusive but this requires technical expertise and has a high failure rate;

  • GnRH analogue use can successfully confirm ovarian source and should be considered as a diagnostic tool in this setting.

Open access

Khaled Aljenaee, Sulaiman Ali, Seong Keat Cheah, Owen MacEneaney, Niall Mulligan, Neil Hickey, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Markedly elevated androgen levels can lead to clinical virilization in females. Clinical features of virilization in a female patient, in association with biochemical hyperandrogenism, should prompt a search for an androgen-producing tumor, especially of ovarian or adrenal origin. We herein report the case of a 60-year-old woman of Pakistani origin who presented with the incidental finding of male pattern baldness and hirsutism. Her serum testosterone level was markedly elevated at 21 nmol/L (normal range: 0.4–1.7 nmol/L), while her DHEAS level was normal, indicating a likely ovarian source of her elevated testosterone. Subsequently, a CT abdomen-pelvis was performed, which revealed a bulky right ovary, confirmed on MRI of the pelvis as an enlarged right ovary, measuring 2.9 × 2.2 cm transaxially. A laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy was performed, and histopathological examination and immunohistochemistry confirmed the diagnosis of a Leydig cell tumor, a rare tumor accounting for 0.1% of ovarian tumors. Surgical resection led to normalization of testosterone levels.

Learning points:

  • Hirsutism in postmenopausal women should trigger suspicion of androgen-secreting tumor

  • Extremely elevated testosterone level plus normal DHEAS level point toward ovarian source

  • Leydig cell tumor is extremely rare cause of hyperandrogenicity

Open access

T O’Shea, R K Crowley, M Farrell, S MacNally, P Govender, J Feeney, J Gibney and M Sherlock

Summary

Meningioma growth has been previously described in patients receiving oestrogen/progestogen therapy. We describe the clinical, radiological, biochemical and pathologic findings in a 45-year-old woman with congenital adrenal hyperplasia secondary to a defect in the 21-hydroxylase enzyme who had chronic poor adherence to glucocorticoid therapy with consequent virilisation. The patient presented with a frontal headache and marked right-sided proptosis. Laboratory findings demonstrated androgen excess with a testosterone of 18.1 nmol/L (0–1.5 nmol) and 17-Hydroxyprogesterone >180 nmol/L (<6.5 nmol/L). CT abdomen was performed as the patient complained of rapid-onset increasing abdominal girth and revealed bilateral large adrenal myelolipomata. MRI brain revealed a large meningioma involving the right sphenoid wing with anterior displacement of the right eye and associated bony destruction. Surgical debulking of the meningioma was performed and histology demonstrated a meningioma, which stained positive for the progesterone receptor. Growth of meningioma has been described in postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy, in women receiving contraceptive therapy and in transsexual patients undergoing therapy with high-dose oestrogen and progestogens. Progesterone receptor positivity has been described previously in meningiomas. 17-Hydroxyprogesterone is elevated in CAH and has affinity and biological activity at the progesterone receptor. Therefore, we hypothesise that patients who have long-standing increased adrenal androgen precursor concentrations may be at risk of meningioma growth.

Learning points:

  • Patients with long-standing CAH (particularly if not optimally controlled) may present with other complications, which may be related to long-standing elevated androgen or decreased glucocorticoid levels.

  • Chronic poor control of CAH is associated with adrenal myelolipoma and adrenal rest tissue tumours.

  • Meningiomas are sensitive to endocrine stimuli including progesterone, oestrogen and androgens as they express the relevant receptors.

Open access

Katia Regina Marchetti, Maria Adelaide Albergaria Pereira, Arnaldo Lichtenstein and Edison Ferreira Paiva

Summary

Adrenacarcinomas are rare, and hypoglycemic syndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by these tumors have been described infrequently. This study describes the case of a young woman with severe persistent hypoglycemia and a large adrenal tumor and discusses the physiopathological mechanisms involved in hypoglycemia. The case is described as a 21-year-old woman who presented with 8 months of general symptoms and, in the preceding 3 months, with episodes of mental confusion and visual blurring secondary to hypoglycemia. A functional assessment of the adrenal cortex revealed ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and hyperandrogenism. Hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, low C-peptide and no ketones were also detected. An evaluation of the GH–IGF axis revealed GH blockade (0.03; reference: up to 4.4 ng/mL), greatly reduced IGF-I levels (9.0 ng/mL; reference: 180–780 ng/mL), slightly reduced IGF-II levels (197 ng/mL; reference: 267–616 ng/mL) and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio (21.9; reference: ~3). CT scan revealed a large expansive mass in the right adrenal gland and pulmonary and liver metastases. During hospitalization, the patient experienced frequent difficult-to-control hypoglycemia and hypokalemia episodes. Octreotide was ineffective in controlling hypoglycemia. Due to unresectability, chemotherapy was tried, but after 3 months, the patient’s condition worsened and progressed to death. In conclusion, our patient presented with a functional adrenal cortical carcinoma, with hyperandrogenism associated with hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis. Patient’s data suggested a diagnosis of hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor (low levels of GH, greatly decreased IGF-I, slightly decreased IGF-II and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio).

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycemyndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by adrenal tumors is a rare condition.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia associated with hyperandrogenism and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis suggests hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor.

  • Hypoglycemia in cases of NICTH should be treated with glucocorticoids, glucagon, somatostatin analogs and hGH.

Open access

Gautam Das, Vinay S Eligar, Jyothish Govindan and D Aled Rees

Summary

Background: Hyperandrogenic states in pregnancy are rare but arise most commonly due to new-onset ovarian pathology in pregnancy. We describe the case of a young woman who presented in the latter half of her pregnancy with features of hyperandrogenism. We review the biochemical and imaging findings and discuss the differential diagnosis.

Case presentation: A 26-year-old woman presented in the later part of her pregnancy with widespread hirsutism. Biochemical testing confirmed hyperandrogenism (testosterone, 13.7 nmol/l and second-trimester pregnancy range, 0.9–4.9 nmol/l), although she had no history of menstrual disturbance, hirsutism or acne prior to conception. Radiological evaluation (ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) revealed multiple cystic lesions in both ovaries, leading to a presumptive diagnosis of hyperreactio luteinalis (HL). The implications of maternal hyperandrogenism on foetal virilisation were considered and the patient was counselled appropriately. She delivered a healthy baby boy uneventfully. Androgen levels, hirsutism and acne normalised within a few weeks of delivery.

Conclusion: HL can occur at any stage of pregnancy and is an important differential diagnosis in pregnant patients with features of androgen excess. Most cases regress spontaneously after delivery and major interventions are usually not needed.

Learning points

  • Hyperandrogenism in pregnancy is rare.

  • Clinical features are similar to the non-pregnant state in the mother but virilisation in the foetus can have profound consequences.

  • HL and pregnancy luteoma are the most common ovarian pathologies leading to hyperandrogenism in pregnancy.

  • Spontaneous regression occurs in the post-partum period in the vast majority of cases and surgery is only required for local complications.

Open access

Jayshree Swain, Shruti Sharma, Ved Prakash, N K Agrawal and S K Singh

Summary

Ovarian steroid cell tumors are very rare functioning sex-cord stromal tumors. They comprise <0.1% of all ovarian tumors. Previously designated as lipoid cell tumors, one-third of these tumors are considered malignant with the mean age of presentation at around 40 years. We present a case of a 28-year-old female with 2-year history of hirsutism, virilization, and amenorrhea. She was diagnosed with left ovarian tumor, for which she underwent left salpingo-oophorectomy. Histopathology revealed not otherwise specified subtype of steroid cell tumors. The patient resumed menses 2 months after the features of masculinization regressed. Within 1 year of surgery, the patient successfully conceived a full-term baby without any complications. In a young female, the neoplastic etiology of a rapid virilization or menses changing should always be kept in mind. Though commonly observed in adult females, steroid cell tumors have very good surgical outcomes if age at presentation is less and tumor is unilateral, and there are no evidences of bilateral malignancy. Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is not required.

Learning points

  • In a case of severe rapid hirsutism and virilization with serum testosterone level more than 200 ng/dl or more than threefold of the normal range, neoplastic conditions should always be suspected.

  • Steroid cell tumor in young women without evidence of malignancy on histopathology has excellent surgical outcomes.

  • Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the surgery of choice.

  • As the frequency of bilateralism is only 6%, prophylactic unaffected side oophorectomy need not be done.