Adrenal cancer care at Mayo Clinic

Adrenal cancer diagnosis at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience diagnosing adrenal cancer. Your appointment with a Mayo Clinic specialist may begin with a review of your medical history and a physical exam.

Additional tests and procedures used to diagnose adrenal cancer include:

  • Blood and urine tests. Laboratory tests of your blood and urine may reveal unusual levels of hormones produced by the adrenal glands, including cortisol, aldosterone and androgens.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may recommend CT, MRI or positron emission tomography (PET) scans to better understand any growths on your adrenal glands and to see if cancer has spread to other areas of your body, such as your lungs or your liver.
  • Laboratory analysis of your adrenal gland. If your doctor suspects you may have adrenal cancer, he or she will recommend removing your adrenal gland. The gland is analyzed in a laboratory by a doctor who studies body tissues (pathologist). This analysis can confirm whether you have cancer and exactly what types of cells are involved.

Adrenal cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic doctors offer a full range of treatment options for people with adrenal cancer. Your care team will work with you to determine which options are best for your situation and will take into account your personal preferences.


The goal of surgery is to remove the entire adrenal cancer. To achieve this, doctors must remove the entire adrenal gland (adrenalectomy). There are several approaches to this surgery:

  • Making an incision in your back (posterior adrenalectomy). During this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in your back, above your kidney, to access the adrenal glands and remove the cancer.
  • Making an incision in your abdomen (transabdominal adrenalectomy). When performing this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in your abdomen in order to reach the adrenal gland and remove the cancer.
  • Making an incision in your chest (thoracoabdominal adrenalectomy). For very large adrenal tumors, surgeons may make a large incision in the chest in order to access the adrenal gland.

Medication to reduce the risk of recurrence

An older drug that has been used to treat advanced adrenal cancer has shown promise in delaying the recurrence of the disease after surgery. Mitotane (Lysodren) may be recommended after surgery for people with a high risk of cancer recurrence. Research into mitotane for this use is ongoing.


Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. For adrenal cancers that can't be removed with surgery or that return after initial treatments, chemotherapy may be an option to slow the progression of the cancer.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is sometimes used after adrenal cancer surgery to kill any cells that might remain.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo Clinic doctors have the knowledge and experience to provide whole-person care to those with adrenal cancers and to provide you with exactly the care you need.

  • Collaboration. At Mayo Clinic, experts in endocrinology, surgery, oncology, radiation oncology, pathology and radiology form a multidisciplinary group to care for people with adrenal cancer. Other experts, including pediatric specialists, are included as needed.
  • Diagnostic expertise. Adrenal cancer can be challenging to diagnose because the features of benign adrenal tumors and cancerous adrenal tumors can be similar. Mayo Clinic pathologists have experience analyzing adrenal tumors to help doctors make an accurate diagnosis and to help determine the most appropriate treatment.
  • Experience. Adrenal cancers are rare, but Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience with these cancers. Each year, about 150 people with adrenal cancer seek care at Mayo Clinic.
  • Advanced treatments. Highly skilled surgeons at Mayo Clinic have the experience necessary to perform complex adrenal cancer operations.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

For more information on visiting Mayo Clinic, choose your location below:

Costs and insurance

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals, or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.

Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.

Nov. 14, 2018