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Adrenal Gland Tumor - Introduction

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this type of tumor and the parts of the body they may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Adrenal Gland Tumors. Use the menu to see other pages. Think of that menu as a roadmap to this entire guide.

About the adrenal glands

Each person has 2 adrenal glands. One is on top of each kidney. The body has 2 kidneys. The adrenal glands are small, yellowish in color, and normally weigh about 10 grams. These glands are important to the body’s endocrine system. The endocrine system is made up of tissues and organs that produce hormones. Hormones are chemical substances that are carried through the bloodstream to have a specific effect on the activity of other organs or cells in the body.

Each adrenal gland has 2 main parts that function separately:

  • Adrenal cortex. The outer part of the adrenal gland is called the cortex. The adrenal cortex makes 3 main hormones: cortisol, aldosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). These hormones carefully control metabolism, blood pressure, and body features, such as hair growth and body shape.

  • Adrenal medulla. The inner part of the adrenal glands is called the medulla. The adrenal medulla makes 3 hormones: epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These hormones, often called catecholamines, control the body’s responses to stress, including the “fight or flight” adrenaline surge.

About adrenal gland tumors

A tumor begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.

An adrenal gland tumor can sometimes produce too much of a hormone. When it does, the tumor is called a “functioning tumor.” An adrenal gland tumor that does not produce hormones is called a “nonfunctioning tumor.” The symptoms and treatment of an adrenal gland tumor depend on:

  • Whether the tumor is functioning or nonfunctioning
  • Which hormone(s) is produced in excess
  • Whether the tumor started in the adrenal gland or spread from another organ

Functional adrenal gland tumors may produce any hormone made in the adrenal gland. In rare cases, they may produce more than 1 hormone.

This section focuses on primary adrenal gland tumors. A primary adrenal gland tumor starts in an adrenal gland. An adrenal gland tumor may also result from a cancer that began in another organ, such as the lungs, and then spread to the adrenal gland through a process called metastasis.

Primary adrenal gland tumors include the following:

  • Adenoma. This is the most common type of adrenal gland tumor. Adenoma is also called an adrenocortical adenoma. It is a noncancerous tumor of the adrenal cortex that can be functioning or nonfunctioning. A small adenoma that does not cause symptoms and is not producing hormones excessively often does not need treatment. Adenoma that produces hormones excessively is called aldosteronoma if it produces a blood pressure hormone called aldosterone. Adenoma that produces too much cortisol results in a syndrome called Cushing's syndrome, which is characterized by weight gain, easy bruising, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma. Adrenocortical carcinoma begins in the adrenal cortex. It is rare, but it is the most common type of cancerous adrenal gland tumor. Adrenocortical carcinoma is also known as adrenal cortical carcinoma. Approximately 4 to 12 people out of every 1 million people develop adrenocortical carcinoma. Adrenocortical carcinoma can be a functioning or nonfunctioning tumor. If the tumor is functioning, it may produce more than 1 hormone.

  • Neuroblastoma. This is a type of childhood cancer that can begin in the adrenal medulla. Learn more about childhood neuroblastoma.

  • Pheochromocytoma. This type of neuroendocrine tumor most often begins in the adrenal medulla and is characterized by high blood pressure, rapid heart beat, and sweating. Learn more about pheochromoctyoma.

The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain how many people are diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor and general survival rates. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

A primary adrenal gland tumor is very uncommon. Exact statistics are not available for this type of tumor in the United States. The average age of a person diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor is 46 years. However, these tumors can occur at any age.

Each year, an estimated 600 people are diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma. This type of cancer is much less common than an adrenal adenoma, which is a noncancerous tumor that is found most commonly in middle-aged and older adults. See the Introduction for more about these types of adrenal gland tumors.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for people with adrenocortical carcinoma is 50%.

However, the survival rate depends on different factors, including the extent (or stage) of cancer at the time it is diagnosed. Other factors that affect survival include the person's age and whether the tumor produces hormones.

If this type of cancer is diagnosed and treated before it has spread outside the adrenal gland, the 5-year survival rate is 74%. In the past, approximately 30% of adrenocortical cancers were diagnosed at this stage. However, advances in imaging tests mean more people with this type of tumor are now being diagnosed at earlier stages. If the cancer has spread to the surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 56%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 37%.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with an adrenal gland tumor are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this tumor in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the websites of the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center (sources accessed January 2021).

The next section in this guide is Risk Factors. It explains the factors that may increase the chance of developing an adrenal gland tumor. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing an adrenal gland tumor. Use the menu to see other pages.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a tumor. Although risk factors often influence the development of a tumor, most do not directly cause a tumor. Some people with several risk factors never develop a tumor, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

People with certain inherited, or hereditary, conditions have a higher risk of developing an adrenal gland tumor. People with a high risk of developing an adrenal gland tumor because of their family history should be examined and evaluated by their doctor every year. Hereditary conditions that raise risk of adrenal gland tumors are:

What causes most cancerous adrenal gland tumors is not known.

Researchers continue to look into what factors cause adrenal gland tumors and what people can do to lower their personal risk. There is no proven way to completely prevent these tumors, but there may be steps you can take to lower your risk. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your personal risk of developing an adrenal gland tumor.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems an adrenal gland tumor can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with an adrenal gland tumor may experience the following symptoms or signs. A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can identify and describe, such as fatigue, nausea, or pain. A sign is something that other people can identify and measure, such as a fever, rash, or an elevated pulse. Together, signs and symptoms can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with an adrenal gland tumor do not have any of the signs and symptoms described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not a tumor.

  • High blood pressure

  • Low potassium level

  • Heart palpitations

  • Nervousness

  • Feelings of anxiety or panic attacks

  • Headache

  • Heavy sweating/perspiration

  • Diabetes

  • Abdominal pain

  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

  • Weakness

  • Abdominal stretch marks

  • Excessive hair growth

  • Changes in the genitals

  • Unusual acne

  • Change in libido (sex drive)

In addition, the specific tumor type of pheochromocytoma may cause dangerous surges of the hormones that regulate blood pressure and the body’s response to stress. A hormonal surge can cause blood pressure to rise very quickly, increasing the risk of a heart attack, stroke, hemorrhage, or sudden death.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If a tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of medical care and treatment. This may also be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Diagnosis

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find a list of common tests, procedures, and scans that doctors use to find the cause of a medical problem. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors use many tests to find, or diagnose, a tumor. They also do tests to learn if a tumor is cancerous and, if so, whether it has spread to another part of the body from where it started. If this happens, it is called metastasis. Some tests may also determine which treatments may be the most effective.

To diagnose an adrenal gland tumor, the doctor will do blood and urine tests (see below) to look for the presence of certain substances to help determine whether the tumor is "functional" or "nonfunctional" (see Introduction). A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan (see below) may be useful in making a diagnosis and finding out whether an adrenal gland tumor is cancerous. Imaging tests show pictures of the inside of the body and may be used to see if a cancerous tumor has spread. Doctors may also do tests to learn which treatments could work best.

How an adrenal gland tumor is diagnosed

There are many tests used for diagnosing an adrenal gland tumor. Not all tests described here will be used for every person. Your doctor may consider these factors when choosing a diagnostic test:

  • The type of tumor suspected

  • Your signs and symptoms

  • Your age and general health

  • The results of earlier medical tests

In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be used to diagnose an adrenal gland tumor:

  • Blood and urine tests. Blood and urine tests help measure the amount of adrenal hormones, which can tell the doctor if the tumor is functional or nonfunctional. A 24-hour urine sample may also be needed. This test requires a person to collect all of their urine for an entire 24-hour period, so it can be used for laboratory testing. The test results help the doctor track how quickly various hormones are produced.

    One specific hormone that doctors look for with these tests is the stress hormone called cortisol. A specific test, called a dexamethasone-suppression test, checks cortisol levels. For this test, you may be asked to take a pill the evening before. This pill contains a drug that acts like cortisol in the body. When someone who does not have an adrenal gland tumor takes this drug, their body will make less cortisol and other hormones. However, if someone has an adrenal gland tumor, cortisol levels will remain high even after taking the drug. Tell your doctor about any medications that you take, even over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements, because this information is needed to correctly interpret this test's results.

  • Biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. If the doctor suspects that cancer has spread to the adrenal gland from another part of the body, a biopsy may be done to find out where the cancer began, which can help the doctor plan treatment. During biopsy, a narrow, hollow needle is used to collect the tissue. This is called a fine-needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. The biopsy is performed by a radiologist who uses specialized imaging procedures, such as CT scans (see below), to guide the needle directly into the tumor. A pathologist then analyzes the sample(s) removed during the biopsy. A pathologist is a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease. An evaluation of hormone production should be done before a biopsy of an unknown adrenal mass to make sure that the tumor is not producing catecholamines.

  • CT or CAT scan. A CT scan takes pictures of the inside of the body using x-rays taken from different angles. A computer then combines these pictures into a detailed, 3-dimensional image that shows any abnormalities or tumors. Sometimes, a special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to provide better detail on the image. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein through a peripheral intravenous (IV) line. This line is a short, plastic tube inserted into the vein that allows the health care team to give medication or fluids.

  • MRI. An MRI uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. MRI can also be used to measure the tumor’s size. A special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to create a clearer picture. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill to swallow.

  • Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan. MIBG is a chemical similar to adrenaline that will collect in a neuroendocrine tumor. A MIBG scan can show a tumor of the adrenal medulla that may not show up on an x-ray. The scan takes place over 2 consecutive days. On the first day, an injection of MIBG is given in the arm. Several hours later, pictures are taken with a special camera that can show if or where in the body the MIBG has collected. The following morning, more pictures are taken, and the process may be repeated if needed.

  • Adrenal vein sampling (AVS). In rare cases, a patient may have symptoms of a hormone-producing tumor, but CT or MRI scans may not identify a tumor or the patient may have small masses on both adrenal glands. In cases like this, an interventional radiologist can test the blood from the veins of each adrenal gland. The blood from each gland is tested to determine whether extra hormone is coming from the adrenal gland with the tumor. This procedure is performed only by specialists and is done in a special radiology center.

  • DOTATATE positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan. A PET scan is usually combined with a CT scan (see above), called a PET or PET-CT scan. During this test, a small amount of a radioactive drug, called a tracer, is injected into a patient’s vein. The body is then scanned to show where the radioactivity has built up in the body. However, the amount of radiation in the substance is too low to be harmful. For pheochromocytoma that is suspected to be inherited, is recurrent, or is at multiple sites, a special PET scan using a special compound called DOTATATE is done. This is a newer scan that is useful in the assessment of these conditions. Learn more about pheochromocytoma.

After diagnostic tests are done, your doctor will review the results with you. If the diagnosis is a tumor, these results also help the doctor describe it. This is called staging.

The next section in this guide is Stages. It explains the system doctors use to describe the extent of the disease. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Stages

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about how doctors describe a cancerous tumor’s growth or spread. This is called the stage. Use the menu to see other pages.

Staging is a way of describing where the tumor is located, if it is cancerous, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body.

Doctors use many diagnostic tests to find out the tumor’s stage. Staging may not be complete until all tests, or even the surgical removal of the tumor or adrenal gland, are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor recommend what kind of treatment is best and can help predict a patient’s prognosis, which is the chance of recovery. There are different stage descriptions for different types of tumors.

TNM staging system

One tool that doctors use to describe the stage of a tumor is the TNM system. Doctors use the results from diagnostic tests and scans to answer these questions:

  • Tumor (T): How large is the primary tumor? Where is it located?

  • Node (N): Has the tumor spread to the lymph nodes? If so, where and how many?

  • Metastasis (M): Has the cancer spread to other parts of the body? If so, where and how much?

The results are combined to determine the stage of cancer for each person. This section covers the standard staging system for adrenocortical carcinoma, which includes 4 stages: stages I through IV (1 through 4). The stage provides a common way of describing the cancer, so doctors can work together to plan the best treatments.

Here are more details on each part of the TNM system for adrenocortical carcinoma.

Tumor (T)

Using the TNM system, the "T" plus a letter or number (0 to 4) is used to describe the size and location of the tumor. Tumor size is measured in centimeters (cm). A centimeter is roughly equal to the width of a standard pen or pencil.

Some stages are also divided into smaller groups that help describe the tumor in even more detail. Specific tumor stage information is listed below.

TX: The primary tumor cannot be evaluated.

T0: There is no primary tumor.

T1: The tumor is 5 cm or less and has not grown outside the adrenal gland.

T2: The tumor is larger than 5 cm and has not grown outside the adrenal gland.

T3: The tumor can be any size. It has grown into the area around the adrenal gland but has not spread to nearby organs.

T4: The tumor is any size and has grown into any of the following:

  • Nearby tissues or organs, such as the kidney

  • The thin muscle under the lungs and heart that separates the chest from the abdomen, called the diaphragm

  • Larger blood vessels, such as the aorta and the vena cava

  • Pancreas

  • Spleen

  • Liver

Node (N)

The “N” in the TNM staging system stands for lymph nodes. These small, bean-shaped organs help fight infection. Lymph nodes are found all over the body. Lymph nodes near where the tumor started are called regional lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in other parts of the body are called distant lymph nodes.

NX: The regional lymph nodes cannot be evaluated.

N0 (N plus zero): The cancer has not spread to the regional lymph nodes.

N1: The cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes.

Metastasis (M)

The “M” in the TNM system describes whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, called metastasis.

M0 (M plus zero): The cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.

M1: The cancer has spread to other parts of the body beyond the nearby organs.

Cancer stage grouping

Doctors assign the stage of the cancer by combining the T, N, and M information to say what stage the cancer is.

Stage I: The tumor is 5 cm or smaller and has not grown beyond the adrenal gland. It has not spread to the regional lymph nodes or to other parts of the body (T1, N0, M0).

Stage II: The tumor is larger than 5 cm. It has not grown beyond the adrenal gland or spread to regional lymph nodes or other parts of the body (T2, N0, M0).

Stage III: The tumor is described by the following:

  • It is 5 cm or smaller and has spread to the regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body (T1, N1, M0).

  • It is larger than 5 cm and has spread to the regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body (T2, N1, M0).

  • It is any size and has grown beyond the adrenal gland but not to nearby organs (T3, N0, M0).

Stage IV: The tumor is described by the following:

  • It is any size and has grown into the area around the adrenal gland but not to nearby organs. The tumor has spread to regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body (T3, N1, M0).

  • It is any size and has spread to nearby organs but not to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body beyond the nearby organs (T4, N0, M0).

  • It is any size and has spread to nearby organs. The tumor has spread to the regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body beyond the nearby organs (T4, N1, M0).

  • The tumor has spread to other parts of the body (any T, any N, M1).

Recurrent: Recurrent cancer is cancer that has come back after treatment. If the cancer does return, there will be another round of tests to learn about the extent of the recurrence. These tests and scans are often similar to those done at the time of the original diagnosis.

Used with permission of the American College of Surgeons, Chicago, Illinois. The original and primary source for this information is the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, Seventh Edition (2017), published by Springer International Publishing.

Information about the tumor’s stage will help the doctor recommend a specific treatment plan. The next section in this guide is Types of Treatment. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Types of Treatment

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about the different types of treatments doctors use for people with an adrenal gland tumor. Use the menu to see other pages.

This section explains the types of treatments that are the standard of care for adrenal gland tumors. “Standard of care” means the best treatments known. When making treatment plan decisions, you are also encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study that tests a new approach to treatment. Doctors want to learn if it is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials can test a new drug, a new combination of standard treatments, or new doses of standard drugs or other treatments. Clinical trials are an option to consider for treatment and care for all stages of cancer. Your doctor can help you consider all your treatment options. Learn more about clinical trials in the About Clinical Trials and Latest Research sections of this guide.

How an adrenal gland tumor is treated

For an adrenal gland tumor, different types of doctors often work together to create a patient’s overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary teamYour health care team may also include a variety of other health care professionals, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors, dietitians, and others.

Up to 30% of adrenal tumors that produce catecholamines (pheochromocytomas) may be linked to a genetic syndrome (see the Risk Factors section). When planning treatment, it may be helpful to talk with a genetic counselor to learn whether the tumor is associated with a specific syndrome. If you are diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor, it is important to learn if any other members of your family may have had any types of endocrine disease in the past. If so, the syndrome may affect other members of your family, and specific genetic tests may be recommended for them. Learn more about genetic testing.

The common types of treatments used for an adrenal gland tumor are described below. Your care plan also includes treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of care.

Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of the tumor, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health. Take time to learn about all of your treatment options and be sure to ask questions about things that are unclear. Talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment and what you can expect while receiving treatment. These types of talks are called “shared decision-making.” Shared decision-making is when you and your doctors work together to choose treatments that fit the goals of your care. Shared decision-making is particularly important for adrenal gland tumors because there are different treatment options. Learn more about making treatment decisions.

Surgery

Surgery is the removal of the tumor and, if necessary, some surrounding healthy tissue during an operation. A surgical endocrinologist is a surgeon who specializes in treating an endocrine tumor using surgery.

An adrenalectomy is the surgical removal of the adrenal gland with the tumor. This may be needed to treat an adrenal gland tumor.

If the tumor is small and, based on its size or the way it looks on imaging scans, shows no evidence that it is cancerous, then laparoscopic surgery may be possible. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique in which the surgeon uses a lighted camera and special instruments and makes small incisions in the skin. This technique reduces pain and recovery time after surgery compared with traditional larger incisions. Laparoscopic surgery may be performed from the abdomen or back, depending on the location of the tumor and the experience of the surgeon. The size of the tumor that can be removed using laparoscopic surgery depends on the surgeon.

If the tumor is possibly cancerous or is larger in size, then surgery using a larger incision in the abdomen is recommended instead of laparoscopic surgery.

If laparoscopic surgery is performed, then the person can usually leave the hospital in 1 to 3 days and can often restart their regular daily activities within a week. If a larger incision is needed, then the person is usually hospitalized for up to 4 to 7 days and should not lift heavy objects for 6 weeks after surgery.

People who have an adrenal tumor producing certain hormones need special preparation for surgery. For instance, patients with pheochromocytoma, where there is excessive production of blood pressure hormones called catecholamines, need to take 3 to 4 weeks of medication called alpha blockade before their surgery. Alpha blockade decreases the effects of these hormones on blood pressure. As a result, the surgery will be safer, with less blood pressure fluctuations during the operation.

Occasionally, people need to stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) as part of their recovery from adrenal surgery.

Before surgery, talk with your surgeon about the possible side effects from the specific surgery you will have, what preparations may be needed before surgery, and what your recovery may be like afterward. Learn more about the basics of cancer surgery.

Therapies using medication

Treatments using medication are used to destroy tumor cells. Medication may be given through the bloodstream to reach tumor cells throughout the body. When a drug is given this way, it is called systemic therapy. Medication may also be given locally, which is when the medication is applied directly to the tumor or kept in a single part of the body.

This type of medication is generally prescribed by a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating tumors with medication.

Medications are often given through an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle or as a pill or capsule that is swallowed (orally). If you are given oral medications, be sure to ask your health care team about how to safely store and handle it.

The types of medications used for adrenal gland tumors include:

  • Hormone therapy

  • Chemotherapy

Each of these types of therapies is discussed below in more detail. A person may receive 1 type of medication at a time or a combination of medications given at the same time. They can also be given as part of a treatment plan that includes surgery and/or radiation therapy.

The medications used to treat adrenal gland tumors are continually being evaluated. Talking with your doctor is often the best way to learn about the medications prescribed for you, their purpose, and their potential side effects or interactions with other medications.

It is also important to let your doctor know if you are taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements. Herbs, supplements, and other drugs can interact with medications to treat your tumor, causing unwanted side effects or reduced effectiveness. Learn more about your prescriptions by using searchable drug databases.

Hormone therapy

Because adrenal gland tumors may produce excess hormones, the doctor may prescribe various medications to control the levels of these hormones before, during, or after other treatments. For example, after surgery for an adrenocortical carcinoma that produces hormones, a patient may need medication to block the effects of excess cortisol. Some of these drugs include metyrapone (Metopirone), metyrosine (Demser), spironolactone (Aldactone), and streptozotocin (Zanosar).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy tumor cells, usually by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells.

A chemotherapy regimen, or schedule, usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. A patient may receive 1 drug at a time or a combination of different drugs given at the same time. Mitotane (Lysodren) is a medication used to treat cancer in the adrenal cortex. It reduces the amount of adrenocorticoids produced by the adrenal cortex.

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the individual and the dose used, but they can include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away once treatment is finished.

Learn more about the basics of chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high energy x-rays or other particles to destroy tumor cells. A doctor who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat a tumor is called a radiation oncologist. In very rare cases, adrenal gland tumors require radiation therapy.

The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. A radiation therapy regimen, or schedule, usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time.

Side effects from radiation therapy may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, upset stomach, and loose bowel movements. Most side effects go away soon after treatment is finished. Learn more about the basics of radiation therapy.

Physical, emotional, and social effects

A tumor and its treatment cause physical symptoms and side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Managing all of these effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your care that is included along with treatments intended to slow, stop, or eliminate the tumor.

Palliative care focuses on improving how you feel during treatment by managing symptoms and supporting patients and their families with other, non-medical needs. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of the tumor, may receive this type of care. And it often works best when it is started right after the diagnosis. People who receive palliative care along with treatment for the tumor often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report that they are more satisfied with treatment.

Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to get rid of the adrenal gland tumor, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy.

Before treatment begins, talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment in the treatment plan being recommended. You should also talk about the possible side effects of the specific treatment plan and palliative care options. Many patients also benefit from talking with a social worker and participating in support groups. Ask your doctor about these resources, too.

During treatment, your health care team may ask you to answer questions about your symptoms and side effects and to describe each problem. Be sure to tell the health care team if you are experiencing a problem. This helps the health care team treat any symptoms and side effects as quickly as possible. It can also help prevent more serious problems in the future.

Learn more about the importance of tracking side effects in another part of this guide. Learn more about palliative care in a separate section of this website.

Metastatic adrenal gland cancer

If an adrenal gland tumor has spread to another part in the body from where it started, doctors call it metastatic cancer. If this happens, it is a good idea to talk with doctors who have experience in treating it. Doctors can have different opinions about the best standard treatment plan. Clinical trials might also be an option. Learn more about getting a second opinion before starting treatment, so you are comfortable with your chosen treatment plan.

Your treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Palliative care will also be important to help relieve symptoms and side effects.

For many people, a diagnosis of metastatic cancer is very stressful and difficult. You and your family are encouraged to talk about how you feel with doctors, nurses, social workers, or other members of the health care team. It may also be helpful to talk with other patients, such as through a support group or other peer support program.

Remission and the chance of recurrence

A remission is when tumor cells cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms. This may also be called having “no evidence of disease” or NED.

A remission may be temporary or permanent. This uncertainty causes many people to worry that the tumor will come back. While many remissions are permanent, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the tumor returning. Understanding the risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if it does return. Learn more about coping with the fear of recurrence.

If the tumor returns after the original treatment, it is called a recurrent tumor. It may come back in the same place (called a local recurrence), nearby (regional recurrence), or in another place (distant recurrence).

When this occurs, a new cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence. After testing is done, you and your doctor will talk about the treatment options. Often the treatment plan will include the treatments described above, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, but they may be used in a different combination or given at a different pace. Your doctor may also suggest clinical trials that are studying new ways to treat this type of recurrent tumor. Whichever treatment plan you choose, palliative care will be important for relieving symptoms and side effects.

People with a recurrent adrenal gland tumor sometimes experience emotions such as disbelief or fear. You are encouraged to talk with their health care team about these feelings and ask about support services to help you cope. Learn more about dealing with recurrence.

If treatment does not work

Recovery from an advanced adrenal gland tumor is not always possible. If the tumor cannot be cured or controlled, the disease may be called advanced or terminal.

This diagnosis is stressful, and for some people, it is difficult to discuss. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns. The health care team has special skills, experience, and knowledge to support patients and their families and is there to help. Making sure a person is physically comfortable, free from pain, and emotionally supported is extremely important.

People who have an advanced tumor and who are expected to live less than 6 months may want to consider hospice care. Hospice care is designed to provide the best possible quality of life for people who are near the end of life. You and your family are encouraged to talk with the health care team about hospice care options, which include hospice care at home, a special hospice center, or other health care locations. Nursing care and special equipment can make staying at home a workable alternative for many families. Learn more about advanced cancer care planning.

After the death of a loved one, many people need support to help cope with the loss. Learn more about grief and loss.

The next section in this guide is About Clinical TrialsIt offers more information about research studies that are focused on finding better ways to care for people who have an adrenal gland tumor. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - About Clinical Trials

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn more about clinical trials, which are the main way that new medical approaches are tested to see how well they work. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are clinical trials?

Doctors and scientists are always looking for better ways to care for people with an adrenal gland tumor. To make scientific advances, doctors create research studies involving volunteers, called clinical trials. Every drug that is now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was tested in clinical trials.

Clinical trials are used for all types of adrenal gland tumors and stages of adrenal gland cancer. Many focus on new treatments to learn if a new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the existing treatments. These types of studies evaluate new drugs, different combinations of treatments, new approaches to radiation therapy or surgery, and new methods of treatment.

People who participate in clinical trials can be some of the first to get a treatment before it is available to the public. However, there are some risks with a clinical trial, including possible side effects and the chance that the new treatment may not work. People are encouraged to talk with their health care team about the pros and cons of joining a specific study.

Some clinical trials study new ways to relieve symptoms and side effects during treatment. Others study ways to manage the late effects that may happen a long time after treatment. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials for symptoms and side effects.

Deciding to join a clinical trial

People decide to participate in clinical trials for many reasons. For some people, a clinical trial is the best treatment option available. Because standard treatments are not perfect, patients are often willing to face the added uncertainty of a clinical trial in the hope of a better result. Other patients volunteer for clinical trials because they know that these studies are the only way to make progress in treating adrenal gland tumors. Even if they do not benefit directly from the clinical trial, their participation may benefit future patients with an adrenal gland tumor.

Insurance coverage and the costs of clinical trials differ by location and by study. In some programs, some of the expenses from participating in the clinical trial are reimbursed. In others, they are not. It is important to talk with the research team and your insurance company first to learn if and how your treatment in a clinical trial will be covered. Learn more about health insurance coverage of clinical trials.

Sometimes people have concerns that, in a clinical trial, they may receive no treatment by being given a placebo or a “sugar pill.” When used, placebos are usually combined with standard treatment in most cancer clinical trials. Study participants will always be told when a placebo is used in a study. Find out more about placebos in cancer clinical trials.

Patient safety and informed consent

To join a clinical trial, patients must participate in a process known as informed consent. During informed consent, the doctor should:

  • Describe all of the treatment options so that the person understands how the new treatment differs from the standard treatment.

  • List all of the risks of the new treatment, which may or may not be different from the risks of standard treatment.

  • Explain what will be required of each patient in order to participate in the clinical trial, including the number of doctor visits, tests, and the schedule of treatment.

  • Describe the purposes of the clinical trial and what researchers are trying to learn.

Clinical trials also have certain rules called “eligibility criteria” that help structure the research and keep patients safe. You and the research team will carefully review these criteria together.

People who participate in a clinical trial may stop participating at any time for personal or medical reasons. This may include that the new treatment is not working or there are serious side effects. Clinical trials are also closely monitored by experts who watch for any problems with each study. It is important that people participating in a clinical trial talk with their doctor and researchers about who will be providing their treatment and care during the clinical trial, after the clinical trial ends, and/or if the patient chooses to leave the clinical trial before it ends.

Finding a clinical trial

Research through clinical trials is ongoing for all types of cancer. For specific topics being studied for adrenal gland tumors, learn more in the Latest Research section.

Cancer.Net offers a lot of information about clinical trials in other areas of the website, including a complete section on clinical trials and places to search for clinical trials for a specific type of tumor.

PRE-ACT, Preparatory Education About Clinical Trials

In addition, you can find a free video-based educational program about cancer clinical trials located in another section of this website.

The next section in this guide is Latest ResearchIt explains areas of scientific research for adrenal gland tumors. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about adrenal gland tumors and how to treat them. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about adrenal gland tumors, ways to prevent them, how to best treat them, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with them. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight a tumor. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy is being researched in clinical trials to see if it may be an effective treatment for adrenal gland tumors. Learn more about immunotherapy.

  • Biomarkers. Studies analyzing the role of genes and proteins in a person’s tumor are underway. The focus of these studies is to help fine-tune the diagnosis of adrenal gland tumors and predict treatment results.

  • Succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) tumors. SDH is a specialized protein that plays an important role in the body’s metabolism. Researchers think that when this gene is inactivated, it results in cancer, including adrenal gland tumors.

  • Palliative care/supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current adrenal gland tumor treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding adrenal gland tumors, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that an adrenal gland tumor and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Coping with Treatment

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about coping with the physical, emotional, social, and financial effects of an adrenal gland tumor and its treatment. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every treatment can cause side effects or changes to your body and how you feel. For many reasons, people do not experience the same side effects even when given the same treatment for the same type of tumor. This can make it hard to predict how you will feel during treatment.

As you prepare to start treatment, it is normal to fear treatment-related side effects. It may help to know that your health care team will work to prevent and relieve side effects. This part of treatment is called “palliative care” or "supportive care." It is an important part of your treatment plan, regardless of your age or the stage of disease.

Coping with physical side effects

Common physical side effects from each treatment option for an adrenal gland tumor are described in the Types of Treatment section. Learn more about side effects of a tumor and its treatment, along with ways to prevent or control them. Changes to your physical health depend on several factors, including the tumor’s stage, the length and dose of treatment, and your general health.

Talk with your health care team regularly about how you are feeling. It is important to let them know about any new side effects or changes in existing side effects. If they know how you are feeling, they can find ways to relieve or manage your side effects to help you feel more comfortable and potentially keep any side effects from worsening.

You may find it helpful to keep track of your side effects so it is easier to explain any changes with your health care team. Learn more about why tracking side effects is helpful.

Sometimes, side effects can last after treatment ends. Doctors call these long-term side effects. They call side effects that occur months or years after treatment late effects. Treating long-term side effects and late effects is an important part of survivorship care. Learn more by reading the Follow-up Care section of this guide or talking with your doctor.

Coping with emotional and social effects

You can have emotional and social effects after a diagnosis. This may include dealing with a variety of emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, or anger, or managing your stress level. Sometimes, people find it difficult to express how they feel to their loved ones. Some have found that talking to an oncology social worker, counselor, or member of the clergy can help them develop more effective ways of coping and talking about their diagnosis.

You can also find coping strategies for emotional and social effects in a separate section of this website. This section includes many resources for finding support and information to meet your needs.

Coping with the costs of medical care

Medical treatment can be expensive. It may be a source of stress and anxiety for people with an adrenal gland tumor and their families. In addition to treatment costs, many people find they have extra, unplanned expenses related to their care. For some people, the high cost stops them from following or completing their treatment plan. This can put their health at risk and may lead to higher costs in the future. Patients and their families are encouraged to talk about financial concerns with a member of their health care team. Learn more about managing financial considerations in a separate part of this website.

Coping with barriers to medical care

Different groups of people experience different rates of new cancer cases and experience different outcomes from their cancer. These differences are called “cancer disparities.” Disparities are caused in part by real-world barriers to quality medical care and more often negatively affect racial and ethnic minorities, poor people, sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ+), adolescent and young adult populations, older adults, and people who live in rural areas or other underserved communities.

If you are having difficulty getting the care you need, talk with a member of your health care team or explore other resources that help support medically underserved people.

Caring for a loved one

Family members and friends often play an important role in taking care of a person with an adrenal gland tumor. This is called being a caregiver. Caregivers can provide physical, practical, and emotional support to the patient, even if they live far away. Being a caregiver can also be stressful and emotionally challenging. One of the most important tasks for caregivers is caring for themselves.

Caregivers may have a range of responsibilities on a daily or as-needed basis, including:

  • Providing support and encouragement

  • Talking with the health care team

  • Giving medications

  • Helping manage symptoms and side effects

  • Coordinating medical appointments

  • Providing a ride to and from appointments

  • Assisting with meals

  • Helping with household chores

  • Handling insurance and billing issues

A caregiving plan can help caregivers stay organized and help identify opportunities to delegate tasks to others. It may be helpful to ask the health care team how much care will be needed at home and with daily tasks during and after treatment. Use this 1-page fact sheet to help make a caregiving action plan. This free fact sheet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.

Learn more about caregiving or read the ASCO Answers Guide to Caring for a Loved One in English or Spanish.

Talking with your health care team about side effects

Before starting treatment, talk with your doctor about possible side effects. Ask:

  • Which side effects are most likely?

  • When are they likely to happen?

  • What can we do to prevent or relieve them?

Be sure to tell your health care team about any side effects that happen during treatment and afterward, too. Tell them even if you do not think the side effects are serious. This discussion should include physical, emotional, social, and financial effects of cancer.

Looking for More on How to Track Side Effects?

Cancer.Net Mobile app symptom tracker

Cancer.Net offers several resources to help you keep track of your symptoms and side effects. Please note that these links will take you to other sections of Cancer.Net:

  • Cancer.Net Mobile: The free Cancer.Net mobile app allows you to securely record the time and severity of symptoms and side effects.

  • ASCO Answers Managing Pain: Get this 32-page booklet about the importance of pain relief that includes a pain tracking sheet to help patients record how pain affects them. The free booklet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.

  • ASCO Answers Fact Sheets: Read 1-page fact sheets on anxiety and depression, constipation, diarrhea, and rash that provide a tracking sheet to record details about the side effect. These free fact sheets are available as a PDF, so they are easy to print, fill out, and give to your health care team.

The next section in this guide is Follow-up Care. It explains the importance of checkups after you finish treatment. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Follow-Up Care

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about your medical care after treatment for an adrenal gland tumor is complete and why this follow-up care is important. Use the menu to see other pages.

Care for people diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor does not end when active treatment has finished. Your health care team will continue to check that the tumor has not come back, manage any side effects, and monitor your overall health. This is called follow-up care.

Your follow-up care may include regular physical examinations, medical tests, or both. Doctors want to keep track of your recovery in the months and years ahead.

The endocrine system is a complex collection of hormone-producing glands that control many essential functions. If the adrenal gland that did not have the tumor is still working correctly after surgery, it should be able to provide enough of the hormones the body needs. However, sometimes a person needs hormone replacement therapy, such as steroids, because the body can not produce enough hormones. This dosage may be lowered over time, and you may even be able to stop taking the hormone replacement drug at some point in the future. An endocrinologist, which is a doctor who specializes in the endocrine system, should carefully monitor this process.

If both adrenal glands have been removed, long-term medication will be required to replace the hormones that were normally produced by these glands. You should also wear a medical-alert bracelet. If you ever become sick or fall unconscious, the bracelet can inform health care professionals of your condition.

For some people who have had an adrenal gland tumor, the risk of developing a tumor in the other gland is 10% or higher. Because of this, people treated for an adrenal gland tumor may need regular checkups with an endocrinologist to monitor their recovery and detect any new tumor growth. In particular, adrenalcortical carcinoma can grow and spread quickly. Because it is rare, you may want to participate in a clinical trial at a medical center with experience treating and monitoring this particular type of tumor. Talk with your doctor about locating these studies and what type of follow-up care is recommended for you.

Benign-appearing adrenal tumors also may need follow-up with imaging and hormonal testing. The length and frequency of follow-up and type of tests ordered may be different from patient to patient. Talk with your doctor if follow-up like this is necessary in your case.

Rehabilitation may be recommended, and this could mean any of a wide range of services, such as physical therapy, career counseling, pain management, nutritional planning, and/or emotional counseling. The goal of rehabilitation is to help people regain control over many aspects of their lives and remain as independent as possible. Learn more about cancer rehabilitation.

Learn more about the importance of follow-up care.

Watching for recurrence

One goal of follow-up care is to check for a recurrence, which means that the cancer has come back. A tumor recurs because small areas of tumor cells may remain undetected in the body. Over time, these cells may increase in number until they show up on test results or cause signs or symptoms.

During follow-up care, a doctor familiar with your medical history can give you personalized information about your risk of recurrence. Your doctor will also ask specific questions about your health. Some people may have blood tests or imaging tests as part of regular follow-up care, but testing recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of the tumor first diagnosed and the types of treatment given.

The anticipation before having a follow-up test or waiting for test results may add stress to you or a family member. This is sometimes called “scanxiety.” Learn more about how to cope with this type of stress.

Managing long-term and late side effects

Most people expect to experience side effects when receiving treatment for the tumor. However, it is often surprising to survivors that some side effects may linger beyond the treatment period. These are called long-term side effects. In addition, other side effects called late effects may develop months or even years afterwards. Long-term and late effects can include both physical and emotional changes.

Talk with your doctor about your risk of developing such side effects based on the type of tumor, your individual treatment plan, and your overall health. If you had a treatment known to cause specific late effects, you may also have certain physical examinations, scans, or blood tests to help find and manage them.

Keeping personal health records

You and your doctor should work together to develop a personalized follow-up care plan. Be sure to ask about any concerns you have about your future physical or emotional health. ASCO offers forms to help keep track of the treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan once treatment is completed.

This is also a good time to talk with your doctor about who will lead your follow-up care. Some survivors continue to see their oncologist and/or endocrinologist, while others transition back to the care of their primary care doctor or another health care professional. This decision depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the tumor, side effects, health insurance rules, and your personal preferences.

If a doctor who was not directly involved in your medical care will lead your follow-up care, be sure to share your treatment summary and survivorship care plan forms with them and with all future health care providers. Details about your treatment for an adrenal gland tumor are very valuable to the health care professionals who will care for you throughout your lifetime.

The next section in this guide is Survivorship. It describes how to cope with challenges in everyday life after being diagnosed with an adrenal gland tumor. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Survivorship

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about how to cope with challenges in everyday life after being diagnosed with a tumor. Use the menu to see other pages.

What is survivorship?

The word “survivorship” means different things to different people. Common definitions include:

  • Having no signs of the tumor after finishing treatment.

  • Living with, through, and beyond cancer. According to this definition, cancer survivorship begins at diagnosis and continues during treatment and through the rest of a person’s life.

Survivorship can be complicated. This is because it is different for everyone.

For some, even the term “survivorship” does not feel right, and they prefer to use different language to describe and define their experience. Sometimes extended treatment will be used for months or years to manage or control a tumor. Living with a tumor indefinitely is not easy, and the health care team can help you manage the challenges that come with it. Everyone has to find their own path to name and navigate the changes and challenges that are the results of their diagnosis and treatment.

Survivors may experience a mixture of feelings, including joy, concern, relief, guilt, and fear. Some people say they appreciate life more after this type of diagnosis and have gained a greater acceptance of themselves. Others become very anxious about their health and uncertain about how to cope with everyday life. Feelings of fear and anxiety will still occur as time passes, but these emotions should not be a constant part of your daily life. If they persist, be sure to talk with a member of your health care team.

Survivors may feel some stress when frequent visits to the health care team end after completing treatment. Often, relationships built with the health care team provide a sense of security during treatment, and people miss this source of support. This may be especially true when new worries and challenges surface over time, such as any late effects of treatment, emotional challenges including fear of recurrence, sexual health and fertility concerns, and financial and workplace issues.

Every survivor has individual concerns and challenges. With any challenge, a good first step is being able to recognize your fears and talk about them. Effective coping requires:

  • Understanding the challenge you are facing

  • Thinking through solutions

  • Asking for and allowing the support of others

  • Feeling comfortable with the course of action you choose

Many survivors find it helpful to join an in-person support group or an online community of survivors. This allows you to talk with people who have had similar first-hand experiences. Other options for finding support include talking with a friend or member of your health care team, individual counseling, or asking for assistance at the learning resource center of the place where you received treatment.

Changing role of caregivers

Family members and friends may also go through periods of transition. A caregiver plays a very important role in supporting the patient, providing physical, emotional, and practical care on a daily or as-needed basis. Many caregivers become focused on providing this support, especially if the treatment period lasts for many months or longer.

However, as treatment is completed, the caregiver's role often changes. Eventually, the need for caregiving will become much less or come to an end. Caregivers can learn more about adjusting to life after caregiving in this article.

A new perspective on your health

For many people, survivorship serves as a strong motivator to make lifestyle changes.

People recovering from an adrenal gland tumor are encouraged to follow established guidelines for good health, such as not smoking, limiting alcohol, eating well, exercising regularly, and managing stress. Regular physical activity can help rebuild your strength and energy level. Your health care team can help you create an appropriate exercise plan based upon your needs, physical abilities, and fitness level. Learn more about making healthy lifestyle choices.

In addition, it is important to have recommended medical checkups and tests (see Follow-up Care) to take care of your health.

Talk with your health care team to develop a survivorship care plan that is best for your needs.

Looking for More Survivorship Resources?

For more information about cancer survivorship, explore these related items. Please note that these links will take you to other sections of Cancer.Net:

  • ASCO Answers Cancer Survivorship Guide: Get this 48-page booklet that helps people transition into life after treatment. It includes blank treatment summary and survivorship care plan forms. The free booklet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.

  • Cancer.Net Patient Education Video: View a short video led by an ASCO expert that provides information about what comes after finishing treatment.

  • Survivorship Resources: Cancer.Net offers information and resources to help survivors cope, including specific sections for children, teens and young adults, and people over age 65. There is also a main section on survivorship for people of all ages.

The next section offers Questions to Ask the Health Care Team to help start conversations with your health care team. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Questions to Ask the Health Care Team

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some questions to ask your doctor or other members of your health care team, to help you better understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and overall care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Talking often with the health care team is important to make informed decisions about your health care. These suggested questions are a starting point to help you learn more about your medical care and treatment. You are also encouraged to ask additional questions that are important to you. You may want to print this list and bring it to your next appointment, or download Cancer.Net’s free mobile app for a digital list and other interactive tools to manage your care. It may also be helpful to ask a family member or friend to come with you to appointments to help take notes.

Cancer.Net Mobile app question tracker

Questions to ask after getting a diagnosis

  • What type of adrenal gland tumor do I have?

  • Is the tumor cancerous?

  • Is the tumor functional or nonfunctional? What does this mean?

  • Is the tumor located only in the adrenal gland?

  • Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?

  • What stage is the adrenal gland tumor? What does this mean?

  • Should I talk with a genetic counselor before I start treatment?

  • Could my family members be at risk for developing an adrenal gland tumor? Should they talk with a genetic counselor?

Questions to ask about choosing a treatment and managing side effects

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What clinical trials are available for me? Where are they located, and how do I find out more about them?

  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?

  • What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the tumor, help me feel better, or both?

  • What are the possible side effects of each treatment, both in the short term and the long term?

  • Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do?

  • Who will be leading my overall treatment?

  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have children? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?

  • If I’m worried about managing the costs of medical care, who can help me?

  • What support services are available to me? To my family?

  • If I have questions or problems, who should I call?

Questions to ask about having surgery

  • Is surgery required? If so, what type of surgery? Will the entire adrenal gland be removed?

  • How experienced is the surgeon with this type of surgery?

  • How long will the operation take?

  • How long will I be in the hospital?

  • Can you describe what my recovery from this surgery will be like?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of having this surgery?

Questions to ask about having chemotherapy

  • What type of chemotherapy do you recommended?

  • What is the goal of this treatment? Can chemotherapy control the tumor?

  • How will the treatment be given? Through an IV or orally?

  • How often will I receive chemotherapy? For how long?

  • Will I receive chemotherapy at a hospital or clinic? Or will I take it at home?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of this chemotherapy regimen?

  • What can be done to prevent or manage these side effects?

Questions to ask about having hormone therapy

  • Is hormone therapy recommended as part of my treatment plan?

  • What hormone is being overproduced by the tumor?

  • When will I need to start hormone therapy? For how long?

  • How will the treatment be given?

  • What side effects can I expect during hormone therapy?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of this hormone therapy?

Questions to ask about having radiation therapy

  • Is radiation therapy an option to treat the tumor?

  • What type of radiation therapy do you recommend?

  • What is the goal of radiation therapy?

  • How many treatments will I need, and how long will each one take?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of having radiation therapy?

  • What can be done to prevent or manage these side effects?

Questions to ask about planning follow-up care

  • What is the chance that the tumor will come back? Should I watch for specific signs or symptoms?

  • Will I need to have hormone replacement therapy? For how long?

  • What long-term side effects or late effects are possible based on the treatment(s) I received?

  • What follow-up tests will I need, and how often will those tests be needed?

  • How do I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan to keep in my personal records?

  • Who will be leading my follow-up care?

  • What survivorship support services are available to me? To my family?

The next section in this guide is Additional Resources. It offers more resources on this website that may be helpful to you. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Adrenal Gland Tumor - Additional Resources

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some helpful links to other areas of Cancer.Net that provide information about cancer care and treatment. This is the final page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Adrenal Gland Tumor. Use the menu to go back and see other pages.

Cancer.Net includes many other sections about the medical and emotional aspects of a tumor for the person diagnosed and their family members and friends. This website is meant to be a resource for you and your loved ones from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond.

Here are a few links to help you explore other parts of Cancer.Net:

This is the end of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Adrenal Gland Tumors. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.