Thyroid cancer: Cushing syndrome is a lesser-known warning sign – what is it?

Thyroid cancer survival rates are 84 percent for 10 years or more if diagnosed early. Early diagnosis is crucial therefore and spotting the unusual signs could be a matter of life and death. A sign your thyroid cancer has advanced includes Cushing syndrome.

What is it?

What is Cushing syndrome?

 

Cushing syndrome occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol for a long time, said the Mayo Clinic.

The health site continued: “Cushing syndrome, sometimes called hypercortisolism, may be caused by the use of oral corticosteroid medication.

“The condition can also occur when your body makes too much cortisol on its own.

“Too much cortisol can produce some of the hallmark signs of Cushing syndrome — a fatty hump between your shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on your skin.”

In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, thyroid carcinoma and Cushing’s syndrome was further investigated.

The study noted: “Two cases of thyroid carcinoma and Cushing’s syndrome are reported.

“Both of our own cases were medullary carcinomas of the thyroid, and on reviewing the histology of five of the other cases all proved to be medullary carcinoma with identifiable amyloid in the stroma.

“A consideration of the temporal relationships of the development of the carcinoma and of Cushing’s syndrome suggested that in the two cases with papillary carcinoma these conditions could have been unrelated, but that in eight of the nine cases with medullary carcinoma there was evidence that thyroid carcinoma was present at the time of diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome.

“Medullary carcinoma of the thyroid is also probably related to this group of tumours. It is suggested that the great majority of the tumours associated with Cushing’s syndrome are derived from cells of foregut origin which are endocrine in nature.”

In rare cases, adrenal tumours can cause Cushing syndrome a condition arising when a tumour secretes hormones the thyroid wouldn’t normally create.

Cushing syndrome associated with medullary thyroid cancer is uncommon.

The syndrome is more commonly caused by the pituitary gland overproducing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), or by taking oral corticosteroid medication.

See a GP if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer, warns the NHS.

The national health body added: “The symptoms may be caused by less serious conditions, such as an enlarged thyroid, so it’s important to get them checked.

“A GP will examine your neck and can organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.

“If they think you could have cancer or they’re not sure what’s causing your symptoms, you’ll be referred to a hospital specialist for more tests.”

 

Adapted from https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1351753/thyroid-cancer-signs-symptoms-cushing-syndrome

COVID-19 May Be Severe in Cushing’s Patients

A young healthcare worker who contracted COVID-19 shortly after being diagnosed with Cushing’s disease was detailed in a case report from Japan.

While the woman was successfully treated for both conditions, Cushing’s may worsen a COVID-19 infection. Prompt treatment and multidisciplinary care is required for Cushing’s patients who get COVID-19, its researchers said.

The report, “Successful management of a patient with active Cushing’s disease complicated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia,” was published in Endocrine Journal.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, which results in abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (hypercortisolism). Since COVID-19 is still a fairly new disease, and Cushing’s is rare, there is scant data on how COVID-19 tends to affect Cushing’s patients.

In the report, researchers described the case of a 27-year-old Japanese female healthcare worker with active Cushing’s disease who contracted COVID-19.

The patient had a six-year-long history of amenorrhea (missed periods) and dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the body). She had also experienced weight gain, a rounding face, and acne.

After transferring to a new workplace, the woman visited a new gynecologist, who checked her hormonal status. Abnormal findings prompted a visit to the endocrinology department.

Clinical examination revealed features indicative of Cushing’s syndrome, such as a round face with acne, central obesity, and buffalo hump. Laboratory testing confirmed hypercortisolism, and MRI revealed a tumor in the patient’s pituitary gland.

She was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor, and treated with metyrapone, a medication that can decrease cortisol production in the body. Shortly thereafter, she had close contact with a patient she was helping to care for, who was infected with COVID-19 but not yet diagnosed.

A few days later, the woman experienced a fever, nausea, and headache. These persisted for a few days, and then she started having difficulty breathing. Imaging of her lungs revealed a fluid buildup (pneumonia), and a test for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — came back positive.

A week after symptoms developed, the patient required supplemental oxygen. Her condition worsened 10 days later, and laboratory tests were indicative of increased inflammation.

To control the patient’s Cushing’s disease, she was treated with increasing doses of metyrapone and similar medications to decrease cortisol production; she was also administered cortisol — this “block and replace” approach aims to maintain cortisol levels within the normal range.

The patient experienced metyrapone side effects that included stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, swelling, increased acne, and hypokalemia (low potassium levels).

She was given antiviral therapies (e.g., favipiravir) to help manage the COVID-19. Additional medications to prevent opportunistic fungal infections were also administered.

From the next day onward, her symptoms eased, and the woman was eventually discharged from the hospital. A month after being discharged, she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Surgery for the pituitary tumor was then again possible. Appropriate safeguards were put in place to protect the medical team caring for her from infection, during and after the surgery.

The patient didn’t have any noteworthy complications from the surgery, and her cortisol levels soon dropped to within normal limits. She was considered to be in remission.

Although broad conclusions cannot be reliably drawn from a single case, the researchers suggested that the patient’s underlying Cushing’s disease may have made her more susceptible to severe pneumonia due to COVID-19.

“Since hypercortisolism due to active Cushing’s disease may enhance the severity of COVID-19 infection, it is necessary to provide appropriate, multidisciplinary and prompt treatment,” the researchers wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2021/01/15/covid-19-may-be-severe-cushings-patients-case-report-suggests/?cn-reloaded=1

Treatment improved multiple cardiovascular risk and other factors in Cushing’s disease patients

 

Hypercortisolism Quickly Reversed With Oral Tx

Oral osilodrostat (Isturisa) normalized cortisol levels in Cushing’s disease patients who were ineligible for or not cured with pituitary surgery, according to the phase III LINC 3 trial.

After 24 weeks of open-label treatment with twice-daily osilodrostat, 53% of patients (72 of 137; 95% CI 43.9-61.1) were able to maintain a complete response — marked by mean 24-hour urinary free cortisol concentration of the upper limit of normal or below — without any uptitration in dosage after the initial 12-week buildup phase, reported Rosario Pivonello, MD, of the Università Federico II di Napoli in Italy, and colleagues.

As they explained in their study online in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, following the 24-week open-label period these complete responders to treatment were then randomized 1:1 to either remain on osilodrostat or be switched to placebo.

During this 10-week randomization phase, 86% of patients maintained their complete cortisol response if they remained on osilodrostat versus only 29% of those who were switched to placebo (odds ratio 13.7, 95% CI 3.7-53.4, P<0.0001) — meeting the trial’s primary endpoint.

As for adverse events, more than half of patients experienced hypocortisolism, and the most common adverse events included nausea (42%), headache (34%), fatigue (28%), and adrenal insufficiency (28%).

“Alongside careful dose adjustments and monitoring of known risks associated with osilodrostat, our findings indicate a positive benefit-risk consideration of treatment for most patients with Cushing’s disease,” the researchers concluded.

This oral inhibitor of 11β-­hydroxylase — the enzyme involved in the last step of cortisol synthesis — was FDA approved in March 2020 based on these findings, and is currently available in 1 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg film-coated tablets.

The prospective trial, consisting of four periods, included individuals between the ages of 18 and 75 with confirmed persistent or recurrent Cushing’s disease — marked by a mean 24-h urinary free cortisol concentration over 1.5 times the upper limit of normal (50 μg/24 hours), along with morning plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone above the lower limit of normal (9 pg/mL). All individuals had either undergone prior pituitary surgery or irradiation, were not deemed to be candidates for surgery, or had refused to have surgery.

During the first open-label study period, all participants took 2 mg of oral osilodrostat twice daily, spaced 12 hours apart. This dose was then titrated up if the average of three 24-h urinary free cortisol concentration samples exceeded the upper limit of normal. During the second study period, which spanned weeks 12 through 24, all participants remained on their osilodrostat therapeutic dose. By week 24, about 62% of the participants were taking a therapeutic dose of 5 mg or less twice daily; only about 6% of patients needed a dose higher than 10 mg twice daily.

In the third study period, which spanned weeks 26 through 34, “complete responders” who achieved normal cortisol levels were then randomized to continue treatment or be switched to placebo, while those who did not fully respond to treatment continued on osilodrostat. For the fourth study period, from weeks 24 through 48, all participants were switched back to active treatment with osilodrostat.

Overall, 96% of participants were able to achieve a complete response at some point while on osilodrostat treatment, with two-thirds of these responders maintaining this normalized cortisol level for at least 6 months. The median time to first complete response was 41 days.

Metabolic profiles also improved along with this reduction in cortisol levels. These included improvements in body weight, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and total cholesterol levels.

“Given the known clinical burden of cardiovascular risk associated with Cushing’s disease, the improvement in clinical features shown here indicates important benefits of osilodrostat,” the researchers said. “By improving multiple cardiovascular risk factors, our findings are likely to be clinically relevant.”

Along with metabolic improvements, patients also had “clinically meaningful improvements” in quality of life, as well as reductions in depressive symptoms measured by the Beck Depression Inventory score, the investigators reported.

One limitation to the trial, they noted, was an inability to control for concomitant medications, since nearly all participants were taking other medications, particularly antihypertensive and antidiabetic therapies.

“Further examination of the effects of osilodrostat on the clinical signs of Cushing’s disease, and the reasons for changes in concomitant medications and the association between such medications and clinical outcomes would be valuable,” Pivonello’s group said.

 

Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms Common in Cushing’s Patients Before Surgery

Patients with Cushing’s disease may develop post-traumatic stress symptoms, which are generally resolved once they undergo surgery to remove the tumor, but can persist in some cases, a study shows.

The study, “Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in patients with Cushing’s disease before and after surgery: A prospective study,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

Cushing’s disease is an endocrine disorder characterized by excess secretion of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by a pituitary adenoma (tumor of the pituitary gland). This leads to high levels of cortisol, a condition known as hypercortisolism.

Chronic hypercortisolism is associated with symptoms such as central obesity, buffalo hump, body bruising, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and weak bones.

Additionally, patients can develop psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, and cognitive dysfunction, all of which contribute considerably to a lower health-related quality of life.

Depression and anxiety rates are particularly high in Cushing’s disease patients, with 54% of them experiencing major depression and 79% having anxiety.

Due to the significant impact of psychological factors in these patients, they may be susceptible to post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). But more information on this phenomenon in these patients is still needed.

To address this lack of data, a group of Chinese researchers conducted a prospective study to investigate the occurrence, correlated factors, and prognosis of PTSS in patients with Cushing’s disease.

A total of 49 patients newly diagnosed with Cushing’s disease who underwent transsphenoidal removal of the tumor as their first-line treatment were asked to participate in this study. Another group of 49 age- and sex-matched healthy individuals were included as controls.

PTSS was measured using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), depression/anxiety were measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS), and quality of life was measured using the 36-item short-form (SF-36). These parameters were measured before surgery, and then at six and 12 months after the procedure.

Before surgery, 15 patients (30.6%) had PTSS. These patients also had higher cortisol levels, worse levels of depression/anxiety, and worse quality of life scores than those without PTSS.

While most of the patients recovered after the operation, there were five (33.3%) for whom PTSS persisted for more than a year.

Additionally, one patient who had a recurrence of Cushing’s disease developed PTSS between six and 12 months after the first surgery.

PTSS severity showed consistent improvement after surgery, which was correlated with better depression/anxiety scores and psychological aspects of the SF-36. However, Cushing’s disease patients in remission still performed worse than healthy individuals concerning their physical and mental health.

Therefore, “patients with [Cushing’s disease] can develop PTSS, and they may persist for over a year even after successful surgery. Combined psychological intervention is advised for these patients,” the researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/06/25/cushings-patients-often-have-post-traumatic-stress-symptoms

Cushing’s Disease Stresses Your Heart and Your Mental Health

Written by Kathleen Doheny

With Oskar Ragnarsson, MD, PHD, and Tamara Wexler, MD, PhD

Adults with Cushing’s syndrome, also called hypercortisolism, have a three-fold higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to the general population,1 according to findings reported by a Swiss research team. Although the researchers found that the risk drops when patients are under care, receiving treatment, and are in remission, the risks don’t disappear completely.  For some perspective, heart disease is common in the United States, affectingone in four adults, regardless of health status.2

Patients with Cushing’s disease have excess mortality [risk],” says Oskar Ragnarsson, MD, PhD, associate professor and a senior consultant in internal medicine and endocrinology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is the author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Having Cushing’s Requires Vigilance Beyond Disease Symptoms

Still, the news is not all bleak, he says. Simple awareness of the increased risks can help individuals reduce their risk, just as following your doctor’s treatment plan so remain in remission, Dr. Ragnarsson tells EndocrineWeb. In addition, patients who received growth hormone replacement appear to have better overall outcomes.1

Cushing’s syndrome occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol over a long period of time. This can be caused either by taking corticosteroid medicine orally, or if your body just makes too much cortisol. Common symptoms of this condition include: having a fatty hump between the shoulders, a rounded face, and stretch marks with pink or purple coloring on the skin. Complications, if Cushing’s disease goes untreated, may include bone loss (leading to increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis), high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other problems. Usual treatment includes medication and surgery that are aimed to normalize cortisol levels.3

Increased Risks Are Cause for Concern in Cushing’s Disease

The researchers analyzed data from 502 men and women, all of whom were diagnosed with Cushing’s disease between 1987 and 2013 as indicated in a Swedish health database.1 The average age of these patients at diagnosis was 43 years, and, 83% of these individuals were in remission. During a median follow up of 13 years—half followed for longer, half followed for less time—the researchers noted 133 deaths, more than the 54 that had been anticipated in this patient population.

From this data,1 Dr. Ragnarsson and his team calculated that people with Cushing’s disease were about 2.5 times more likely to die than the general population. The most common reason, with more than a 3-fold increased risk, was attributed to events associated with cardiovascular disease, encompassing both heart disease and stroke. This group also appeared to have a higher risk of death from infectious and respiratory diseases, and conditions related to gastrointestinal problems.

Fortunately, just being in disease remission helps to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality,1 the researchers’ report, with both men and women whose Cushing’s disease is well-managed having a two-fold lower risk of death during the follow-up period.1 Those in remission who were receiving growth hormone had an even lower risk of death than those on other forms of treatment.

In addition, the researchers looked at the 55 patients with Cushing’s disease who were in remission and also had diabetes, finding that their risks remained the same. In other words, despite a strong relationship between diabetes and increased heart disease, the risks of death were not increased in this group of patients.1

In considering the impact that treatments may have, the researchers found:

  • 3 in 4 of these patients (75%) had undergone pituitary surgery
  • 28% had undergone radiotherapy
  • 1 in 4 (24%) had had both adrenal glands removed

Those who had their adrenal glands removal experienced a 2.7-fold higher risk of death, while those who were treated with radiotherapy or had pituitary surgery did not have an increased risk associated with cardiovascular events. When glucocorticoid therapy was added, it did not affect results, according to Dr. Ragnarsson and his research team.

Bottom line? “Even though patients in remission have a better prognosis than patients not in remission, they still have more than a 2-fold increased mortality [risk],” he says. The study, he says, is the first to uncover a high rate of death from suicide in Cushing’s patients. It has been reported before, but the numbers found in this study were higher than in others.

The findings, he says, emphasize the importance of treating Cushing’s with a goal of remission. Ongoing surveillance and management are crucial, he says. “Also, evaluation and active treatment of cardiovascular risk factors and mental health is of utmost importance,” Dr. Ragnarsson tells EndocrineWeb.

Remission Reduces But Doesn’t Eliminate Serious Risks 

The study findings underscore the message that ”the priority for patients is to achieve biochemical remission,” says Tamara L. Wexler, MD, PhD, director of the NYU Langone Medical Center Pituitary Center, in reviewing the findings for EndocrineWeb.

“One question raised by the study findings is whether patients listed as being in remission were truly in (consistent) remission,” Dr. Wexler says. “One or more of several testing methods may have been used, and the data were based on medical record reviews so we can’t be certain about the status of these patients’ remission. In addition, we don’t know how much excess cortisol patients were exposed over time, which may change their risks.”

I have another concern about the findings, she says. While the method of analysis used in the study suggests that the length of time from diagnosis to remission is not associated with increased death risk, ”it may be that the total exposure to excess cortisol—the amplitude as well as duration—is related to morbidity [illness] and mortality [death] risk.” And, she adds, any negative effects experienced by patients with Cushing’s disease may be reduced further as remission status continues.

In addition, Dr. Wexler considers the authors’ comments that sustained high cortisol levels may impact the cardiovascular system in a way that is chronic and irreversible ”may be overly strong.” She believes that the total cortisol exposure and the duration of remission may both play important roles in patients’ ongoing health.

She does agree, however, with the researchers’ recommendation of the need to treat heart disease risk factors more aggressively in patients with a history of Cushing’s disease. Equally important, is for patients to be warned that there is an increased concern about suicide, she says, urging anyone with Cushing’s disease to raise all of these concerns with your health practitioner.

Overall, the study findings certainly suggest that it is important for you to know that if you have Cushing’s syndrome, you are at increased risk for not just heart disease but also mental health disorders and other ailments than the general population, she says, and that the best course of action is to work closely with your doctor to achieve remission and stick to your overall treatment plan.

Steps to Take to Reduce Your Risks for Heart Disease and Depression

Dr. Ragnarsson suggests those with Cushing’s disease make adjustments as needed to achieve the following risk-reducing strategies:

  • Be sure your food choices meet the parameters of a heart-healthy diet
  • You are getting some kind of physical activity most every day
  • You see your doctor at least once a year to have annual checks of your blood pressure, blood sugar, and other heart disease risk factors.

For those of you receiving cortisone replacement therapy, you should be mindful of the need to have a boost in your medication dose with your doctors’ supervision when you’re are sick or experiencing increased health stresses.

From https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/adrenal-disorders/61675-cushings-disease-stresses-your-heart-your-mental-health

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