Adrenal cancer

Treatment

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) treats the full range of cancers that can affect endocrine glands, including your adrenal glands. Our endocrine tumor experts are UW Medicine doctors who also see patients at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). They work together closely to provide coordinated, world-class treatment for you.

A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming. We have an experienced, compassionate team ready to help, and we are dedicated to making you well.

Adrenal cancer expertise at SCCA

Everything you need is here

We have surgeons, endocrinologists, pathologists and medical and radiation oncologists who specialize in adrenal disease; the most advanced diagnostic, treatment and recovery programs; and extensive support. Few medical centers in the United States have the level of expertise available at SCCA and UWMC.

Adrenal cancer treatment tailored to you

Pooling their knowledge, skills and experience, your specialists recommend a treatment plan to get the best possible results in your individual situation. This collaboration continues throughout your care. Each month, our surgeons, endocrinologists and pathologists come together at a meeting called the endocrine tumor board at UWMC. They review your case, share their opinions and combine their expertise to ensure you get the best treatment for your disease. 

Team-based approach

We view treatment as a collaborative effort. Your personal team includes more than your adrenal cancer doctors and nurses. Additional experts who specialize in treating people with cancer will be involved if you need them — experts like a palliative care professional, social worker, dietitian or pharmacist.

Learn More About Our Supportive Care Services

Ongoing care and support

During and after treatment, your team continues to provide follow-up care on a schedule tailored to you. The SCCA Survivorship Clinic is also here to help you live your healthiest life as an adrenal cancer survivor.

Learn More About Our SCCA Survivorship Clinic

Treatment types

Surgery

For most people, the main treatment for adrenal cancer is surgery to remove all of the cancer, if possible. Typically, this means trying to remove the adrenal gland (adrenalectomy) with the tumor and any other areas of cancer. This is usually done through an incision in the abdomen. 

Surgery may be the only treatment you need for stage I, II or III adrenal cancer. Many people have radiation therapy or chemotherapy after surgery. 

If you have stage IV cancer, which is more widespread, your care team may recommend surgery to remove as much of the cancer as they can. This may help control your disease or reduce your symptoms. Other treatments may help too. 

Your SCCA care team will talk with you in detail about the surgery they recommend for you, why and what to expect. We’re here to help you through the entire process — before, during and after your surgery — including preventing and dealing with any possible side effects.

Surgery

For most people, the main treatment for adrenal cancer is surgery to remove all of the cancer, if possible. Typically, this means trying to remove the adrenal gland (adrenalectomy) with the tumor and any other areas of cancer. This is usually done through an incision in the abdomen. 

Radiation therapy

People with adrenal cancer sometimes have external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) after surgery to decrease the chance that the cancer will return. If your cancer has spread to other parts of your body, radiation therapy may also be helpful for treating those specific spots.

EBRT aims high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation at your body to kill cancer cells. 

Radiation therapy

People with adrenal cancer sometimes have external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) after surgery to decrease the chance that the cancer will return. If your cancer has spread to other parts of your body, radiation therapy may also be helpful for treating those specific spots.

Chemotherapy

Your doctors may recommend chemotherapy too, to help control cancer that might spread or has already spread to other parts of your body or to relieve symptoms caused by excess hormones. 

For adrenal cancer, doctors most often use the medicine mitotane (Lysodren). It kills adrenal cancer cells and suppresses hormone production by both adrenal glands. You take a pill daily at home. It is prescribed by a doctor who specializes in glands and hormones (endocrinologist). It can be used along with other chemotherapy medicines, which are typically given through an infusion into a vein.

Your SCCA team will talk with you about the specific drugs we recommend for you, how you’ll receive them, your treatment schedule and what to expect. We’ll also explain how to take the best possible care of yourself during treatment and after, and we’ll connect you with medical and support resources throughout SCCA.

Chemotherapy

Your doctors may recommend chemotherapy too, to help control cancer that might spread or has already spread to other parts of your body or to relieve symptoms caused by excess hormones. 

Other medicines

If your cancer is causing higher hormone levels than normal, you may need medicines to control these levels before, during or after having other treatments. These medicines can block hormones or reduce the effects of the hormones. An endocrinologist works as part of your team to check your hormone levels and to prescribe and adjust the medicines you need.

Other medicines

If your cancer is causing higher hormone levels than normal, you may need medicines to control these levels before, during or after having other treatments.