Rare Prostate Cancer Associated with Cushing’s Syndrome

A patient with depression developed Cushing’s syndrome (CS) because of a rare ACTH-secreting small cell cancer of the prostate, a case study reports.

The case report, “An unusual cause of depression in an older man: Cushing’s syndrome resulting from metastatic small cell cancer of the prostate,” was published in the “Lesson of the Month” section of Clinical Medicine.

Ectopic CS is a condition caused by an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting tumor outside the pituitary or adrenal glands. The excess ACTH then acts on the adrenal glands, causing them to produce too much cortisol.

Small cell cancer is more common in older men, those in their 60s or 70s. Sources of ectopic ACTH synthesis arising in the pelvis are rare; nonetheless, ACTH overproduction has been linked to tumors in the gonads and genitourinary organs, including the prostate.

Still, evidence suggests there are less than 30 published cases reporting ectopic CS caused by prostate cancer.

Researchers from the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network and the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia described the case of an 84-year-old man who complained of fatigue, back pain, and lack of appetite.

Blood tests revealed mildly elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and creatinine levels, which could indicate the presence of prostate cancer and impaired kidney function, respectively.

The patient had a history of locally invasive prostate cancer even though he didn’t experience any symptoms of this disease.

Ultrasound examination showed an enlarged prostate plus obstructed ureters — the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder. To remove the obstruction, doctors inserted a thin tube into both ureters and restored urine flow.

After the procedure, the man had low levels of calcium, a depressed mood, and back pain, all of which compromised his recovery. Imaging of his back showed no obvious reason for his complaints, and he was discharged.

Eight days later, the patient went to the emergency room of a large public hospital because of back pain radiating to his left buttock. The man also had mild proximal weakness on both sides. He was thinner, and had low levels of calcium, high blood pressure and serum bicarbonate levels, plus elevated blood sugar. In addition, his depression was much worse.

A psychiatrist prescribed him an antidepressant called mirtazapine, and regular follow-up showed that his mood did improve with therapy.

A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed a 10.5 cm tumor on the prostate and metastasis on the lungs and liver. Further testing showed high serum cortisol and ACTH levels, consistent with a diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome.

But researchers could not identify the ACTH source, and three weeks later, the patient died of a generalized bacterial infection, despite treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

An autopsy revealed that the cancer had spread to the pelvic sidewalls and to one of the adrenal glands. Tissue analysis revealed that the patient had two types of cancer: acinar adenocarcinoma and small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma — which could explain the excess ACTH.

Cause of death was bronchopneumonia, a severe inflammation of the lungs, triggered by an invasive fungal infection.

Investigators believe there are things to be learned from this case, saying, “Neither the visceral metastases nor aggressive growth of the pelvic mass noted on imaging were typical of prostatic adenocarcinoma. [Plus], an incomplete diagnosis at death was the precipitant for a post-mortem examination. The autopsy findings were beneficial to the patient’s family and treating team. The case was discussed at a regular teaching meeting at a large tertiary hospital and, thus, was beneficial to a wide medical audience.”

Although a rare cause of ectopic ACTH synthesis, small cell prostate cancer should be considered in men presenting with Cushing’s syndrome, especially in those with a “mystery” source of ACTH overproduction.

“This case highlights the importance of multidisciplinary evaluation of clinical cases both [before and after death], and is a fine example of how autopsy findings can be used to benefit a wide audience,” the researchers concluded.

https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/10/16/rare-prostate-cancer-prostate-associated-cushings-syndrome-case-report/

Adrenal insufficiency – how to spot this rare disease and how to treat it

adrenal-glandsAddison’s disease, or adrenal insufficiency, is a rare hormonal disorder of the adrenal glands that affects around 8,400 people in the UK.

The adrenal glands are about the size of a pea and perched on top of the kidneys, and affect the body’s production of the hormones cortisol and sometimes aldosterone.

When someone suffers from adrenal insufficiency, those glands aren’t producing a sufficient amount of these hormones. This can have a detrimental effect on someone’s health and well-being. But because the symptoms are similar to a host of other conditions, Addison’s disease can prove tough to isolate.

What to look out for

According to advice provided by the NHS, the symptoms in the early stages of Addison’s disease, which affects both men and women, are gradual and easy to misread as they’re similar to many other conditions.

People can experience severe fatigue, muscle weakness, low moods, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and salt craving.

“Symptoms are often misread or ignored until a relatively minor infection leads to an abnormally long convalescence, which prompts an investigation,” says Professor Wiebke Arlt from the Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Birmingham.

Life-threatening condition

If Addison’s disease is left untreated, the level of hormones produced by the adrenal gland will gradually decrease in the body. This will cause symptoms to get progressively worse and eventually lead to a potentially life-threatening situation called an adrenal, or Addisonian, crisis. Signs include severe dehydration; pale, cold, clammy skin; rapid, shallow breathing; extreme sleepiness; severe vomiting and diarrhoea. If left untreated, it can prove fatal, so the patient should be admitted to hospital as an emergency.

Back to basics

To understand the disorder, it’s important to get to grips with the basics and that means understanding what the adrenal glands are – and so to the science.

“Adrenal glands have an inner core (known as the medulla) surrounded by an outer shell (known as the cortex) ,” explains Arlt.
The inner medulla produces adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone. While the absence of this does not cause the disease, the cortex is more critical.

“It produces the steroid hormones that are essential for life: cortisol and aldosterone,” he adds.

“Cortisol mobilises nutrients, enables the body to fight inflammation, stimulates the liver to produce blood sugar and also helps control the amount of water in the body. Aldosterone, meanwhile, regulates the salt and water levels, which can affect blood volume and pressure.”

Why does it happen?

The disorder occurs if the adrenal glands are destroyed, absent or unable to function and failure of the glands themselves is known as primary adrenal insufficiency.

“It’s most often caused by autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mounts an attack against its own adrenal glands,” explains Arlt.

“However it can also be caused by infection, most importantly by tuberculosis and sometimes by both adrenal glands being surgically removed.”

The pituitary effect

Another important cause is any disease affecting the pituitary gland, which is located behind the nose at the bottom of the brain.
“The pituitary is the master gland that tells the other glands in the body what to do,” continues Arlt.

“The pituitary gland produces a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone to give it its full name), which travels in the blood stream to the adrenal glands.

“Here it acts as a signal, causing the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. If the pituitary gland stops making ACTH, [then] cortisol production by the adrenals is no longer controlled properly and a condition called secondary adrenal insufficiency arises.”

But in most cases, aldosterone is still produced, which means that people suffering from secondary adrenal insufficiency have fewer problems than those with primary adrenal insufficiency.

Determining a diagnosis

Due to the ambiguous nature of the symptoms, a Short Synacthen Test (SST) needs to be performed in order to diagnose adrenal insufficiency.

“This measures the ability of the adrenal glands to produce cortisol in response to (the pituitary hormone) ACTH,” says Arlt. “When carrying out this test, a baseline blood sample is drawn before injecting a dose of ACTH, followed by drawing a second blood sample 30 to 60 minutes later. Failing adrenal glands will not be able to produce a certain level of cortisol.”

Getting treatment

If someone has been conclusively diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency, they should receive adrenal hormone replacement therapy as advised by an endocrinologist, a doctor specialising in hormone-related diseases.

“A normal adrenal gland does not need supplements to function properly and there is no recognised medical condition called ‘adrenal fatigue’,” warns Arlt.

“Either the adrenal gland is fine and needs no treatment or there is adrenal insufficiency due to adrenal or pituitary failure.”

So if in doubt, don’t self-diagnose but book an appointment with your GP.

For more information, visit Addison’s Disease Self-Help Group (www.addisons.org.uk) or Pituitary Foundation.

From https://home.bt.com/lifestyle/wellbeing/adrenal-insufficiency-how-to-spot-this-rare-disease-and-how-to-treat-it-11363985141306

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