Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Diagnosis and Treatment of Adrenal Cancer

The adrenal glands sit above each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. The glands each have two parts:

What is Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer is extremely rare, and the majority of adrenal tumors are benign adenomas, meaning they are not cancerous. In fact, only about one person out of every million people worldwide will develop a cancerous adrenal tumor.

When cancer starts in the cortex, it is called adrenocortical carcinoma. When cancer starts in the medulla it is called neuroblastoma or pheochromocytoma, depending on which cells it arises from.

About 10 percent of cases of pheochromocytoma occur in children. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford has expert physicians who specialize in treating pheochromocytoma in children.

Treating Adrenal Cancer

Surgery to remove the affected gland is the mainstay of treatment for adrenal cancer. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also sometimes given to patients with advanced disease.

Stanford Expertise

When you are being treated for cancer you want a physician who is familiar with your particular disease. However, because adrenal cancer is so rare it can be difficult to find a doctor who has treated adrenal cancer patients. Our specialists at the Stanford Cancer Center not only treat adrenal cancer patients, but also offer the most advanced treatments available today.

Surgical Excellence

Stanford offers minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery for adrenal cancer to patients who are good candidates for this procedure. In addition, our surgeons have experience managing complex cases of adrenal cancer that require coordination between the surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, and endocrinologists.

Genetic Analysis and Counseling

Adrenal cancer sometimes runs in families and is caused by genes. If multiple people in your family have been diagnosed with adrenal cancer or another endocrine cancer, you may want to be evaluated by genetic counselors associated with the Cancer Center who specialize in syndromes (e.g., multiple endocrine neoplasm syndromes, Li-Fraumeni syndrome) that can cause adrenal cancer.

If one of these syndromes runs in your family, you can be carefully monitored so that if you develop adrenal cancer or another endocrine cancer it can be caught early when it is most treatable.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: