Adrenal gland

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Grading adrenal gland cancer

The grade is a description of how the cancer cells look compared to normal cells. To find out the grade of adrenal gland cancer, the pathologist looks at a tissue sample from the tumour under a microscope. The main factor used to determine the grade is how often the tumour cells are dividing (measured as the number of mitosis). Other factors used to determine the grade include the weight and size of the tumour, whether cancer cells have grown into blood vessels (vascular invasion) or lymph nodes, and if there are cancer cells in the surgical margin.

How different the cancer cells are is described as differentiation.

Low grade means that the cancer cells are well differentiated. They look almost like normal cells. Lower grade cancer cells tend to be slow growing and are less likely to spread.

High grade means that the cancer cells are poorly differentiated or undifferentiated. They look less normal, or more abnormal. Higher grade cancer cells tend to grow more quickly and are more likely to spread than low-grade cancer cells.

Knowing the grade gives your healthcare team an idea of how quickly the cancer may be growing and how likely it is to spread. This helps them plan your treatment. The grade can also help the healthcare team predict future outcomes (your prognosis) and how the cancer might respond to treatment.


The process by which a cell divides to form 2 new cells. Each new cell receives a complete set of chromosomes from the original cell.


The area of normal tissue surrounding a tumour that is removed along with the tumour during surgery.

The margin may be described as negative or clean if no cancer cells are found at the edge of the tissue. It may be described as positive or involved if cancer cells are found at the edge of the tissue, which suggests that not all of the cancer was removed.