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Adrenal cancer treatments

Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are all used to treat adrenal cancer, though how each is used, and whether they may be used in combination, depends on a number of factors. Your surgical oncologist may recommend one of multiple surgical approaches, depending on the stage of the disease. In some cases of advanced adrenal cancer, chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery to destroy cancer cells or keep them from growing and spreading. Radiation therapy is often given following surgery in patients with advanced adrenal cancer to shrink or destroy cancer cells that could not be removed during surgery.


Surgery is used to treat all stages of adrenal cancer.

A minimally invasive procedure known as laparoscopy—using a thin, lighted tube with a camera attached inserted via small incisions—may be an option for small tumors. In cases where laparoscopy cannot be performed, other surgical procedures for adrenal cancer may include:

Posterior surgery: This procedure removes the tumor through an incision in the back, just above the kidneys. This is typically the approach used to treat small, benign adrenal tumors.

Transabdominal surgery: In this procedure, the surgical oncologist makes an incision through the abdomen to inspect nearby tissues and organs, while removing the adrenal tumor, gland(s) and other cancerous tissues found during the procedure.

Thoracoabdominal surgery: A long incision extending from the chest to the abdomen may be necessary to remove large, cancerous adrenal tumors. This procedure allows for a broader view of the surrounding tissues and organs in order to assess the potential spread and growth of the cancer.

Radiation therapy

In advanced-stage adrenal cancers, radiation therapy may be given following surgery. Radiation therapy may serve multiple purposes, including treating tumors that can’t be removed during surgery, decreasing the risk of tumor recurrence and treating areas where the cancer has spread, such as the brain, liver or bones.

Our radiation oncologists are trained to use various technologies to destroy cancer cells, shrink tumors and/or reduce cancer-related symptoms.


Chemotherapy may be used in conjunction with surgery to treat advanced-stage adrenal cancer. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to destroy cancer cells or interfere with their ability to grow and reproduce. Since chemotherapy has not had significantly positive outcomes for adrenal cancer, it is most often used when the disease is too widespread to be removed surgically.

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