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Treatment Options For Adrenal Cancer

About Adrenal Cancer:

The adrenal gland is located above each kidney. Adrenal cancer occurs when abnormal cells form in the gland. It is mostly found occurring in the outermost layer of the gland or in the adrenal cortex.

Adrenal cancer is a part of neuroendocrine tumors which form in the different hormone-producing glands in the body.

It is a rare condition with an incidence of 0.7-2.0 million habitants/year(1). Genetic history increases the risk of occurrence.

Symptoms Of Adrenal Cancer Include:

Sometimes, the symptoms become noticeable only when the tumor becomes large. There are various drugs and surgery option which can help in the treatment.

Treatment Options For Adrenal Cancer

Treatment Options For Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer treatment depends on the several factors including type and stage of the tumor, patient’s overall health, and the possible side effects.


Surgery for adrenal cancer involves removal of the adrenal gland tumor and some of the surrounding healthy tissue during the operation. Sometime adrenalectomy (removal of the adrenal gland) is needed to treat the adrenal gland tumor.

Laparoscopic surgery done for adrenal cancer treatment is possible if the tumor is less than 5cm. It is a minimally invasive technique in which the surgeon uses camera and instruments by small incisions on the skin. It reduces the recovery time and pain, therefore, is better than the surgery with the larger incision. The incision is made in the abdomen or back depending on the location of the tumor.

In laparoscopic surgery for adrenal cancer, the patient can leave the hospital in 1 or 3 days and the patient can resume work within a week.

If the tumor size is larger than 5cm, surgery with a large incision in the abdomen or back is recommended. In this surgery for adrenal cancer, the patient is hospitalized for 5 to 7 days and cannot lift heavy object for 6 weeks after surgery.

Adrenal gland tumor produces the stress hormone, which is why the patient needs to be monitored and given medications to treat high blood pressure during surgery. After the surgery, patient might need to stay in an intensive care unit short term after the surgery.

The patient needs to talk to the surgeon about the possible side effects of surgery before taking the decision.

Hormone Therapy

Since adrenal gland produces excess hormones, the doctor prescribes various medications before, during, and after the surgery to control the level.


In chemotherapy treatment for adrenal cancer, a drug is given to destroy the cancer cells by stopping the cells ability to grow and divide. A medical oncologist does this procedure.

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the dose and on the individual suffering from adrenal cancer. The common symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, hair loss and diarrhea. The effects go away once the treatment is finished.

Radiation Therapy

Adrenal cancer treatment can also be done by radiation therapy. The procedure involves using high energy x-rays or other particles to destroy the tumor. It is a rare procedure for adrenal gland cancer.

The side effects include fatigue, upset stomach, and mild skin reaction. These effects fade away as the treatment finishes.

Treatment for Metastatic Adrenal Gland Cancer

If in case adrenal cancer has spread to another part of the body, it is known as metastatic cancer. The treatment option might include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Palliative care may be given to relieve the symptoms and side effects.

Care for the Symptoms And Side Effects

Treatment of the adrenal cancer leads to a lot of side effects which can be managed by the palliative care to improve the quality of life. It works well if palliative care is started as early as it is needed during the treatment process. Patients who receive the care early have lesser severity and are more satisfied with the treatment.

Palliative treatment for adrenal cancer includes nutritional change, medications, relaxation techniques, emotional support, and other therapies.

Before the treatment for adrenal cancer is done speak with the healthcare team about the possible side effects of the treatment plan and their palliative options. During and after the treatment, make sure you keep the healthcare team aware if you are experiencing any problem so that it is addressed as early as possible.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 6, 2021

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