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Adrenal gland

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Prognosis and survival for adrenal gland cancer

People with adrenal gland cancer may have questions about their prognosis and survival. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with a person’s medical history, type of cancer, stage, characteristics of the cancer, treatments chosen and response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect a person, and how it will respond to treatment. A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together and they both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.

Because adrenal gland cancer is so rare, the prognostic factors are not well known.

The following are prognostic factors for adrenal gland cancer.


The most important prognostic factor for adrenal gland cancer is the stage of the disease. The earlier the stage, the more favourable the prognosis

Surgical removal

The completeness of surgical removal is an important prognostic factor. If a tumour can be completely removed by surgery, the prognosis is more favourable than when a tumour cannot be removed.

Type of tumour

The prognosis varies depending on the type of adrenal gland tumour.

  • Pheochromocytomas have more favourable prognosis than paragangliomas (extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas).
  • Tumours that produce hormones (functioning tumours) have a more favourable prognosis than tumours that do not produce hormones (non-functioning tumours). The prognosis may be better because these tumours cause symptoms associated with excessive hormone production and so may be diagnosed earlier.
  • Tumours that overproduce cortisol have a less favourable prognosis than other functioning tumours. This could be due to the morbidity associated with Cushing’s syndrome.


Younger people may have a more favourable prognosis than people diagnosed at an older age.


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