If your healthcare provider believes you may have adrenal cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

He or she will also give you a physical exam. You may have one or more of the following tests.

  • CT scan. This well-known imaging test uses X-ray to create a detailed image of your adrenal glands. Additionally, the scan can show whether adrenal cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes. The information obtained helps your doctor determine the correct course of treatment.
  • MRI scan. MRI is a commonly used diagnostic imaging test that provides detailed results. MRI uses radio waves to capture images and can be useful in determining whether a tumor in your adrenal gland is cancerous or benign.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. During a PET scan, small amounts of radioactive substances are injected into the body. If you have tumor cells, the radioactive substances will gather in the affected area. The radioactive substance will then show up on an image produced by a special camera. Your doctor will use this image to determine whether an abnormality in your adrenal gland is likely to be cancerous or benign. If it is cancerous, a PET scan can also show whether that cancer has spread.
  • Ultrasound. This imaging test uses sound waves to create an image of your adrenal glands. For adrenal cancer it is typically only used in cases when a CT scan cannot be performed.

Because both cancerous and benign adrenal gland tumors look alike underneath a microscope, biopsies are not typically performed for adrenal gland cancer. The exception is when tumors have spread outside the adrenal glands, to determine whether these tumors were caused by adrenal gland cancer or another condition.

After a biopsy, a Markey team member will contact you to review results and make recommendations about next steps.

When you are diagnosed with adrenal cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent adrenal cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care.

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the first and only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Kentucky, Markey can serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including adrenal cancer.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating adrenal cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of adrenal cancer.
  • You may want to learn more about different treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources: