If adrenal gland cancer spreads

Cancer cells can spread from the adrenal gland to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps your healthcare team plan your treatment and future care. If primary adrenal gland cancer (also called adrenal gland cancer) spreads, it can spread to the following:

  • regional lymph nodes
  • the other adrenal gland
  • kidney
  • diaphragm
  • pancreas
  • spleen
  • stomach
  • colon
  • diaphragm
  • large blood vessels
  • peritoneum (the membrane that lines the walls of the abdomen and pelvis and covers and supports most of the abdominal organs)
  • retroperitoneum (area behind the peritoneum toward the back of the abdomen)
  • bone
  • liver
  • lung
  • brain – this is rare
  • skin – this is rare

Metastases to the adrenal gland

The adrenal gland is a common site for metastases. Spread of other cancers to the adrenal gland (secondary adrenal gland cancer) is more common than primary adrenal gland cancer. Cancers that may spread to the adrenal gland include:

  • lung
  • breast
  • colon
  • rectum
  • malignant melanoma
  • lymphoma

Expert review and references

  • Lirov R, Else T, Lerario AM, Hammer GD . Adrenal tumors. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 84:1195-1204.
  • National Cancer Institute. Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma Treatment (PDQ®) for Health Professionals. 2015: https://www.cancer.gov/types/pheochromocytoma/hp/pheochromocytoma-treatment-pdq.
  • National Cancer Institute. Adrenocortical Carcinoma Treatment (PDQ®) for Health Professionals. 2015: https://www.cancer.gov/types/adrenocortical/hp/adrenocortical-treatment-pdq.
  • Phan AT, Habbra MA, Gurbbs EG, Moran C . Adrenal neoplasms. Raghavan D, Blanke CD, Honson DH, et al (editors). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 4th ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2012: 3(10):163-187.