Metastases to the Adrenal Gland


Adrenal metastases are cancers that originated elsewhere in the body and spread to the adrenal gland.

Tumors that commonly metastasize to the adrenals include carcinomas of the:

  • Lung
  • Skin (melanoma)
  • Breast
  • GI tract (esophagus, stomach, colon)
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Ovary

In most patients with adrenal metastases, the source of the primary cancer is already known. Metastatic cancer to the adrenal without a known primary cancer is extremely rare.

When an adrenal nodule develops in a patient with a known history of cancer, it is important to determine whether the nodule is an adrenal metastasis or just a coincidental benign adrenal nodule. PET scans and FNA (fine-needle aspiration) can help make this determination. The probability of the  nodule being a metastasis is approximately 50%.

Unfortunately, many patients with adrenal metastases have multiple other sites of metastatic disease, so surgery to remove the adrenal tumor would not be beneficial. On the other hand, this type of surgery may be a good choice if (A) the tumor is causing pain or other symptoms, or (B) the adrenal metastasis is the only known remaining site of cancer.


This information is provided by the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.