Adrenal Cancer: Treatment Choices

There are many treatment choices for adrenal cancer. Which may work best for you? It depends on things such as:

  • The size of the tumor

  • Where the tumor is

  • Test results

  • The stage or extent of the disease

  • Your age

  • Your overall health

  • Your personal concerns and preferences

  • What side effects you’re willing to deal with

Learning about your treatment options

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you can do your normal activities.

Your doctor is the best person to answer your questions. They can tell you what your treatment choices are and how well they’re expected to work. Your doctor can also tell you what the risks and side effects are. Your doctor may advise a certain treatment. Or more than 1 treatment may be suggested, and you decide which one to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It's important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

Man talking to healthcare provider in exam room.

Types of treatment

Adrenal cancer treatments may be local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control cancer cells in 1 area. Surgery and radiation are local treatments.

Systemic treatments destroy or control cancer cells all over your body. Chemotherapy (chemo) is a systemic treatment.

You may have just 1 treatment. Or you may have a combination of treatments.

Goals of treatment

Different types of adrenal cancer treatments have different goals. The types of treatments and their goals include:

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

  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy kills cancer cells using high energy X-rays. It might be used to treat any cancer cells left after surgery. Or it can be used to treat pain caused by tumor growth. It may also be used to treat cancer that can’t be taken out with surgery.

  • Chemotherapy: The goal of chemo is to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It might be used after surgery to reduce the chance that the cancer will come back. Chemo may also be used to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

  • Medicines to control hormone levels: These medicines help stop excess hormone production, lower the effects of some hormones, or replace hormones. They also ease symptoms caused by hormone imbalances. You may keep taking them after the main treatment is done.

Clinical trials for new treatments

Researchers are always looking for new ways to treat adrenal cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, ask your healthcare provider if there are any clinical trials you should learn about.

Talking with your healthcare provider

At first, thinking about treatment options may seem overwhelming. Talk with your doctors, nurses, and loved ones. Make a list of questions. Learn about the benefits and possible side effects of each option. Discuss your concerns with your doctor before making a decision.

Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get a second opinion before deciding on your treatment plan. You may also want to have your family and friends be part of this process.

© 2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

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