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.

Oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment, such as treating cancer with radiation. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation. Pathologist A physician who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
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. 

Pathologist A physician who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends.
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.

Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Radiation therapy The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.
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 The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body.
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 Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Infusion An injection of medications or fluids into a vein over a period of time. Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.
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.