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Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.

Adrenal Cancer Treatment Introduction

Picture of a woman talking with a doctor

The treatment choices for each person depend on the size and location of the tumor, the results of lab tests, and the stage or extent of the disease. A doctor also considers the person's age and general health when making recommendations about a treatment.

Many people want to learn all they can about their disease and their treatment choices so that they can take an active part in decisions about their care. They are likely to have many questions and concerns about their treatment options.

The doctor is the best person to answer questions about treatment, such as what the treatment choices are, how well it might work, and what the risks and side effects may be. Most patients also want to know how they will have to change their normal activities.

Types of treatment

Treatment for adrenal cancer is either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in one certain area. Surgery and radiation are local treatments. Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment. A patient may have just one treatment or a combination of treatments.

Goals of treatment

Different types of treatment have different goals. Below is a list of various adrenal cancer treatments with their respective goals:

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor along with the adrenal gland. Sometimes nearby lymph nodes are also removed. 

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells using high energy X-rays. This treatment is used to shrink a tumor before surgery or to treat any remaining cancer cells after surgery.

  • Chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink the adrenal cancer while also reducing the chance that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body.

  • Biologic therapy. This type of treatment in which biologic substances are given is called biologic therapy. Some biologic therapies stimulate the body to fight the cancer. They are called immunotherapy. 

Today, many adrenal tumors can be removed laparoscopically. This is a less invasive surgery that allows patients to leave the hospital after one or two days. Patients usually have less pain and can return to normal activities sooner.

Doctors are always looking for new ways to treat adrenal cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, a person should ask his or her doctor if there are any clinical trials available in the hospital where he or she is being treated that should be considered.

At first, the information a patient receives about treatment options may seem overwhelming. It is important that patients take the time to gather as much information as possible about their disease and its treatment and to discuss the issues with their doctors, nurses, and loved ones. Many people find it helpful to make a list of questions before seeing their doctor.