We have deep expertise in the treatment of adrenal tumors. Included among our multidisciplinary team are:

  • Oncologists
  • Endocrine surgeons
  • Endocrinologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Medical geneticists

The UCHealth – CU Cancer Center adrenal cancer program, established in 2013, offers a comprehensive treatment approach, and patients benefit from the blended expertise of a team of physicians.

Our multidisciplinary tumor board meets regularly to discuss the best treatment options for each patient.

Patients with adrenal cancer are seen within one week of referral and we offer same-day outpatient evaluation in a joint Endocrine, Surgery and Oncology clinic.

can-uch-nci-designationCurrently the primary treatment for adrenal tumor is surgical removal of the tumor within the adrenal gland, as well as all surrounding structures that may have been invaded by the tumor. At UCHealth, our provider team has advanced expertise in adrenal tumor surgery. In unresectable or recurrent tumors surgery, medical therapy, chemotherapy and radiation are potential options.

We are actively pursuing research in the area of adrenal cancer and adrenal and extra-adrenal tumors called pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma respectively, as there is a need for better targeted medical treatments. Our research is focused on uncovering new genes and molecular pathways in these tumors that could be targeted in patients with adrenal cancer.

Advanced treatment and research

As the regional leader in cancer research, treatment and support, at UCHealth you will get specialized multidisciplinary care not available anywhere else in Colorado.

  • Experts in cancer diagnosis and staging, which are the first steps for getting proper cancer care
  • Expert endocrine surgeons specializing in adrenal tumor surgery
  • Treatment strategies and monitoring based on the latest guidelines, and potential for enrollment into clinical trials when available

Second opinions

Get second opinions and remote second opinions

UCHealth and the University of Colorado Cancer Center are nationally recognized for their second opinions programs.

>> Find out more

What to bring to your second opinion appointment

Our second opinions are based on our review of all available information, including comprehensively re-reviewing all scans and tests.

Please bring all medical records dating back to your diagnosis to your second opinion appointment. Ideally, these should also include your scans on CDs and the actual tumor specimen on microscope slides. The doctors who have looked after you already should be able to provide these for you.

Education

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare cancer with an estimated 500 new cases annually is US.

  • The majority of ACC are sporadic (non-hereditary) with few recently identified genetic mutation syndromes.
Symptoms

  • Initially the symptoms can be very subtle and adrenal cancer is often identified when tumor is large and causing back pain or abdominal pain by compressing structures in abdominal cavity
  • Some tumors secrete hormones as patients have associated symptoms:
    • Cortisol : weight gain especially abdomen, round face, increased blood pressure, increased blood glucose, insomnia, easy bruising
    • Aldosterone: increased blood pressure, decreased potassium
    • DHEA-S: increased weight and body hair in women

Diagnosis

  • Based on symptoms the evaluation includes:
    • Blood test to check the adrenal hormone levels
    • Imaging with CT scan to evaluate the tumor size and presence of metastasis

Treatment

  • Surgery by the expert surgeon remains the only chance of a cure, however some tumors are unresectable.
  • Mitotane, a medicine that destroys the normal adrenal as well as cancer cells, is the main chemotherapeutic agent
  • When many metastasis are present chemotherapy and occasionally radiation therapy are used


Pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma are adrenal and extra-adrenal tumors, respectively, that secrets high amount of adrenaline.

  • Approximately more than 25% of pheochromocytomas/paragangiomas are hereditary, and about 20-25% of these tumors are malignant.
Symptoms

  • Classics triad of symptoms includes: episodic headaches, sweating and tachycardia with increased blood pressure
  • Patients describe spells of anxiety, palpitations and associated chest tightness, and dizziness

Diagnosis

  • Based on symptoms, the evaluation includes:
    • 24-hr urine collection and blood tests
    • CT scan and sometimes Nuclear Medicine imaging

Treatment

  • Prior to surgical removal of a pheochromocytoma medical management for of blood pressure for 10-14 days by an endocrinologist is imperative in all patients with pheochromocytoma.
  • Surgical removal of the tumor by an expert surgeon is curative in the majority of patients
  • Metastatic or recurrent pheochromocytomas are managed by a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons and radiation oncologists.


Functional Adrenal Tumors represent about 10-15% of all adrenal tumors.

Symptoms

  • Usually are associated with the type of hormone that is overproduced:
    • Cortisol (Cushing’s syndrome): weight gain especially in the abdomen, round face, increased blood pressure, increased blood glucose, insomnia, easy bruising and purple stretch marks
    • Aldosterone (Conn’s syndrome): water retention and swelling, increased blood pressure, decreased potassium
    • Testosterone: increased hair growth, voice deepening and male pattern baldness in women; weight gain

Diagnosis

  • Based on symptoms, the evaluation includes:
    • 24-hr urine collection and blood tests
    • CT scan of the abdomen

Treatment

  • All patients with functional adrenal tumors should undergo prompt surgical removal of the tumor by an expert surgeon, as their disease associated with hormone overproduction may progress rapidly
  • In the pre-surgical period, patients with functional adrenal tumors are managed by an endocrinologist using medical therapies to suppress the abnormal hormone levels.