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Adrenal gland tumor surgery is the main form of treatment recommended for adrenal cancer in many situations. The goal is to remove as much cancer as possible, which usually involves the surgical removal of the adrenal gland and some surrounding tissue through a procedure known as an adrenalectomy. If any nearby lymph nodes appear to be enlarged, they will likely be removed along with the adrenal gland and evaluated for evidence of cancer spread.

Adrenal cancer surgery options

There are several techniques that a surgeon can use to perform an adrenalectomy. The approach recommended for a patient will depend on a number of individual factors, such as the size and extent of the adrenal tumor. The main types of adrenal gland tumor surgery are:

  • Traditional approach with a back incision – A surgeon removes the adrenal gland through an incision in the patient’s back, just below his or her ribs. This approach may be suitable if an adrenal gland tumor is relatively small.
  • Traditional approach with a front incision – By making an incision in the abdomen, a surgeon may be able to view and remove a relatively large tumor and any nearby lymph nodes, muscles, fat and organs, such as a kidney, that are affected by cancer.
  • Laparoscopic (minimally invasive) approach – Adrenal gland tumor surgery can sometimes be performed laparoscopically if a tumor is very small and the adrenal gland can be removed intact (breaking up a tumor prior to removal can increase the risk of cancer spread). When performing a laparoscopic procedure, a surgeon creates small incision in the patient’s side and inserts a hollow, lighted tube with a tiny video camera attached to the end (laparoscope). The surgeon then inserts specialized instruments through the tube or another small incision to remove the adrenal gland.
  • Robotic surgery – During robotic adrenal cancer surgery, a surgeon makes small incisions and uses robotic instruments to perform delicate, precise movements that aren’t possible with the human hand alone. 

If the adrenal gland cancer is extensive and has spread to the inferior vena cava (the large vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart) or the liver, a more extensive operation may be required to remove the cancer while preserving the vein or a portion of the liver.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty team of experts makes individualized treatment recommendations based on a thorough evaluation of each patient. Patients who require surgery are treated by a highly specialized surgical team that is skilled and experienced in performing complex procedures to address adrenal cancer.

You don’t need a referral to consult with the experts at Moffitt. If you’d like to learn more about our adrenal gland tumor surgery options, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online.