The diagnosis of adrenal cancer often begins with a physical examination and an assessment of any symptoms the patient has. To confirm the diagnosis, several tests may be necessary, such as:
- Blood and urine tests: These tests can measure the hormone levels in the body, specifically those generated by the adrenal glands, such as cortisol, aldosterone, androgens. Unusual levels may be linked to adrenal cancer.
- Imaging tests: MRI, CT scan, or PET scan are used to detect malignancies. Imaging tests can help the doctor clarify any growths on the adrenal glands. This also can determine whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lung or liver.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is used to assess whether a tumor is malignant and which sorts of cells are involved. The doctor may advise to have the afflicted adrenal gland removed for laboratory examination.
There are several available treatment options for adrenal cancer. Typically, when a tumor is identified as malignant, the doctor will assess the extent of the disease, including measuring the size of the tumor and determining if cancer cells have spread beyond the adrenal gland to other areas of the body. This information is crucial for determining the appropriate course of treatment.
Depending on whether the cancer is on the early or advance stage, the following treatment options may be recommended:
- Surgery: The common first treatment for adrenal cancer is surgery. Adrenalectomy entails removing the adrenal gland and possibly other adjacent tissue as well. If evidence of cancer spreading to neighboring structures is discovered, such as the liver or kidney, sections or all those organs may be removed during the procedure.
- Medication to lower the risk of recurrence: Although still under research, Mitotane may be used after surgery for patients who are at high risk of cancer recurrence. This medication is used to treat advanced adrenal cancer and has shown promise in slowing disease recurrence following surgery.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by delivering high-energy beams such as X-rays and protons. Radiation therapy is commonly performed following adrenal cancer surgery to eliminate any remaining cells. It can also aid in the relief of pain and other symptoms associated with cancer that has spread to other regions of the body.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy may be an option to reduce the progression of adrenal tumors that cannot be removed surgically or that return after initial treatments. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and prevent tumor growth.