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  • Author: Namson S Lau x
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Sarah N Parry Department of Endocrinology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia
Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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Namson S Lau Metabolism & Obesity Services, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia
Liverpool Diabetes Collaboration, Ingham Institute of Applied Medical Research, Sydney, Australia
South West Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

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Approximately 80% of adrenal incidentalomas are benign, and development into adrenal cortical cancer is extremely rare. This is a major reason behind clinical guidelines recommending surveillance of incidentalomas for a relatively short duration of up to 5 years. Surveillance of lesions less than 1 cm is not routinely recommended. A 70-year-old lady was diagnosed with a non-hyperfunctioning 8 mm right adrenal lesion. She underwent annual biochemical and radiological assessment for 5 years before surveillance was extended to 2-yearly intervals. The lesion was stable in size, and radiological characteristics were consistent with a benign adenoma. Seven years after the initial detection of the adrenal lesion, she developed acute abdominal pain. Imaging revealed a 7 cm right adrenal lesion, which was surgically resected and histologically confirmed to be adrenal cortical cancer. She died 1 year later. Clinical guidelines have moved towards a shortened duration of surveillance of incidentalomas. Even though malignant transformation is a rare event, it is possible that this will result in a delayed diagnosis of adrenal cortical cancer, a highly aggressive malignancy with a poor prognosis. To our knowledge, this is the first published case of an adrenal lesion of less than 1 cm developing into adrenal cortical cancer.

Learning points

  • Adrenal incidentalomas are increasingly common.

  • Clinical practice guidelines exist to aid in differentiating benign and malignant lesions and assessing functional status.

  • Transformation of adrenal incidentalomas to adrenal cortical carcinomas is a rare but recognised event.

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