Types of Treatment For Adrenal Gland Tumor

Executive Summary

We will describe the types of treatment that are the standard for adrenal gland tumors here. Standard treatment means the most well-known treatment. Clinical trials may be an option in making treatment planning decisions. Doctors want to know if it is safe and effective and may be better than the standard treatment. Surgery and therapies using medications are usually the most common treatment types. Nowadays, doctors use new drugs, new combinations of traditional treatments, or further doses of common medications and other treatments. All stages of cancer may be treated with standard treatment methods. However, your doctor can help you consider all of your treatment options.

Treatment of adrenal gland tumor

In the case of adrenal cancer, different physicians often work together to create an overall treatment plan for the patient that combines different types of treatment. We can this as an interdisciplinary team. The medical team may also include a variety of other medical professionals, including medical assistants, nurses, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counsellors, nutritionists, and more.

You may note that up to 30% of adrenal tumors produce catecholamines (pheochromocytoma) which are due to the hereditary syndrome. While planning treatment, one may find it helpful to consult a genetic counsellor to determine if the tumor has any particular syndrome associated with it. Additionally, if your diagnosis shows an adrenal tumor, it is essential to know if other family members may have had endocrine disorders in the past. If so, the syndrome can affect other members of your family, and you may have to do specific genetic tests.

Common Treatments for Adrenal Gland Tumor

Common treatment for adrenal gland tumors is described below. Your care plan also includes treatment of symptoms and side effects that are an essential part of care ​1​. Treatment options and recommendations usually depend on several factors, including the type and stage of the tumor, possible side effects, patient preferences and general health. Take time to know all treatment options and ask questions.

Talk to your health practitioner about the goals of each treatment and what to expect during treatment. These types of discussions are known as “joint decision making.” Shared decision-making means that you and your doctor work together to select a treatment that meets your treatment goals. Collaborative decision-making is especially important for adrenal tumors because of the variety of treatment options.


Surgery is the removal of a tumor and, in some cases, healthy tissue around it during surgery. Surgical endocrinologists are surgeons who specialize in the surgical treatment of endocrine tumors. Adrenalectomy is surgical resection of the adrenal glands with a tumor ​2​. This may be necessary to treat adrenal tumors. If the tumor is small and image scans do not show evidence of cancer-based on its size or appearance, laparoscopic surgery might be possible.

Laparoscopic surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is an invasive technique in which a surgeon makes a small incision in the skin using an illuminated camera and special equipment. Good news is that this technique reduces post-surgery pain and recovery time compared to traditional large incisions. A surgeon may perform a laparoscopic surgery from the abdomen or back, depending on the tumor’s location and the surgeon’s experience. The size of the tumor removed by laparoscopic surgery depends on the surgeon. If the tumor is cancerous or more extensive, surgeon recommend surgery with a large abdominal incision instead of laparoscopic surgery.

When performing laparoscopic surgery, it is usually possible to leave the hospital in 1 to 3 days and often resume normal daily activities within a week. But, if a larger incision is needed, the person is usually hospitalized for up to 4-7 days and should not lift heavy objects for the upcoming six weeks after surgery.

People with adrenal tumors that produce certain hormones require special preparation for surgery. For example, a patient with pheochromocytoma who overproduces a blood pressure hormone called catecholamines should take a drug called alpha block for 3-4 weeks before surgery ​3​. Alpha blockade reduces the effects of these hormones on blood pressure. This reduces blood pressure fluctuations during surgery and makes the surgery safer.

Occasionally, patients need to continue intensive care as part of their recovery from adrenal surgery. Before surgery, talk to your surgeon about possible side effects of the particular surgery you plan to have, the necessary preparations before surgery, and subsequent recovery.

Therapies using medication

Tumor cells are destroyed by drug treatment. The drug administered in the bloodstream can reach tumor cells throughout the body. Administering medications in this way is called systemic therapy. The drug can also be given topically by applying the drug directly to the tumor or stored on the part of the body. An oncologist who specializes in drug treatment for adrenal gland tumors, usually prescribe these types of drugs. One may have to take the drug often via an intravenous (IV) tube inserted into a vein with a needle or have to swallow a tablet or capsule (orally). If you are taking oral medications, contact your medical team for safe storage and handling. The types of drug treatments used for adrenal tumors are hormone therapy and chemotherapy.


We have described each of these types of treatment for adrenal gland tumor in detail below. A person can only receive one drug or combination of drugs at a time. One may have to take this as part of a treatment plan which includes surgery and radiation therapy. While giving medications used to treat adrenal tumors, doctors usually evaluate them. Undeniably, talking to your health practitioner is often the best way to learn more about the drugs prescribed for you, their purpose, and possible side effects and drug interactions. It is also crucial to let your doctor know if you are taking other prescriptions or over-the-counter medications or supplements. It’s because herbs, accessories, and other medicines can interact with medications used to treat tumors, causing unwanted side effects and diminished efficacy.


  1. 1.
    MACFARLANE D. Cancer of the adrenal cortex; the natural history, prognosis and treatment in a study of fifty-five cases. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1958;23(3):155-186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13571886
  2. 2.
    Germain A, Klein M, Brunaud L. Surgical management of adrenal tumors. Journal of Visceral Surgery. Published online September 2011:e250-e261. doi:10.1016/j.jviscsurg.2011.06.003
  3. 3.
    Kolomecki K, Pomorski L, Kuzdak K, Narebski J, Wichman R. The surgical treatment of adrenal gland tumors–incidentaloma. Neoplasma. 1999;46(2):124-127. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10466437