The adrenal glands are small, triangular glands located on the top of both kidneys that produce hormones. An adrenalectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the adrenal gland and commonly used to treat adrenal cancer, which offers the best chance for a cure.
During an adrenalectomy, the surgeon will take out one of the adrenal glands to remove the tumor and relieve any symptoms. The other adrenal gland is left in place and can handle normal hormone production. Sometimes surgeons will remove tumors that have spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) in order to correct symptoms or to find out what they are.
The location for the surgical incision depends on the size of the tumor. An adrenalectomy may be done through an incision in the back, just below the ribs. This approach works well for small tumors. For larger cancers, the incision is made in the front of the abdomen. Sometimes the surgeon may use a laparoscope to remove the tumor. A laparoscope is a thin tube with a tiny video camera on the end that is inserted through a small opening in the patient's side.