Pheochromocytoma is a tumor. It is made up of special adrenal gland cells. These cells secrete hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones help to regulate the heart rate and blood pressure. The cells may secrete excessive amounts of the hormones. This results in periods of:
Most of these tumors are benign (noncancerous). About 10% are malignant (cancerous). Most of the tumors grow on the adrenal glands. The glands are on top of the kidneys. About 10%-20% the tumors occur elsewhere in the body.
Factors associated with pheochromocytoma include:
Up to 50% of patients have no symptoms. This tumor is found during the investigation of some other unrelated illness.
Symptoms may occur many times during the day. They can also occur as infrequently as once every few months. Symptoms may be brought on by pressure on the tumor (during a massage), medications (such as certain anesthetics and beta-blockers), or intense emotion. Symptoms can include:
Your doctor will take a medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis of pheochromocytoma may include the following tests:
If the tumor is benign, it is removed. This procedure use small incisions and special instruments.
Sometimes, the adrenal glands are removed as a part of this process.
Prior to surgery, the high blood pressure will need to be brought under control, using:
This may be used if the tumor is cancerous and has spread outside of the adrenal glands. It involves the use of:
Radiation may also be used. It is used to destroy blood vessels that may be feeding the tumor. This process is called ablation.
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
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