Adrenal gland

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Treatment of adrenal gland cancer

Treatment for adrenal gland cancer is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan.

Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for adrenal gland cancer are based on:

  • stage
  • type of tumour
  • whether the tumour is functioning or non-functioning

Treatment options for adrenal gland cancer

  • surgery
    • Adrenalectomy (removal of the adrenal gland) is the primary treatment for adrenal gland cancer.
    • Surgical debulking is done to remove as much of the tumour as possible for advanced adrenal gland cancer.
    • Liver or lung metastases may be removed in some cases.
  • supportive therapy
    • Therapy may be given before surgery to manage symptoms caused by hormone overproduction or for recurrent or advanced adrenal gland cancer.
    • Hormone replacement may be given after surgery.
  • chemotherapy
    • Chemotherapy may be given after surgery to destroy cancer cells left behind.
    • It is also used to control symptoms caused by production of hormones in advanced adrenal gland cancer.
  • radiation therapy
    • External beam radiation therapy may be given:
      • to treat bone metastases
      • after surgery or chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells left behind
    • targeted radiation therapy with 131I-MIBG may be used to treat malignant pheochromocytomas.
  • follow-up after treatment is finished
    • It is important to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first few years after treatment.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials investigate new and better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. There are some clinical trials in Canada that are open to people with adrenal gland cancer. For more information, go to clinical trials.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about treatment.


Dr Marc Therrien Dr Marc Therrien is working toward blocking a cancer-driving protein.

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