Adrenal Cancer Staging

  • Willie Underwood III, MD, MPH, MSci collaborates with RPCI pathologists to determine the most effective cancer treatment for patients.

Classifying Your Cancer

Pathology tests help to determine the cancer stage and grade — classifications that are essential to choosing the most effective cancer treatment and predicting how the disease will progress.

Your cancer specialists determine how to treat your cancer and how far your cancer has spread through staging. It takes into account the primary (original) tumor size, number of tumors and whether it has metastasized, or spread to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body. Staging is based on the pathology report, physical exam, biopsies and imaging tests. Generally, a lower stage indicates a better prognosis (the likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of a full recovery or recurrence).

Defining the Stages

Adrenal cancer is staged and treated based on the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread. The following stages are used to describe adrenal cancer:

  • Stage I: In stage I, the tumor is 5 centimeters or smaller and is found only in the adrenal gland.
  • Stage II: In stage II, the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and is found only in the adrenal gland.
  • Stage III: In stage III, the tumor can be any size and may have spread to fat or lymph nodes near the adrenal gland.
  • Stage IV: In stage IV, the tumor can be any size and has spread:
    • To fat or organs, and to lymph nodes near the adrenal gland
    • To other parts of the body. Adrenocortical carcinoma commonly spreads to the lung, liver, bones, and peritoneum (the tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen).