Pheochromocytoma – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is pheochromocytoma?
Pheochromocytoma (PCC) is a rare tumor that starts in the tissue of adrenal glands. This tumor secretes hormones. It results in the release of high quantities of epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones control heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure.
Pheochromocytoma may occur as a single tumor or as more than one growth. It usually develops in the center (medulla) of one or both adrenal glands. In rare cases, this kind of tumor occurs outside the adrenal gland. When it does, it is usually somewhere else in the abdomen.
Very few pheochromocytomas are cancerous.
The tumors may occur at any age, but they are most common from early to mid-adulthood.
What causes pheochromocytoma?
What causes pheochromocytoma is not clearly known to doctors and scientists. Experts believe that it may be caused by hypoxia (reduced oxygen supply). Congenital heart disease and very high blood pressure can cause hypoxia. It is also believed that pheochromocytoma is hereditary.
What are the symptoms of pheochromocytoma?
Severe high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate are the main symptoms. A group of symptoms occurs suddenly when the tumor releases hormones. The symptoms usually last from a few minutes to hours. The following are the group of symptoms that can occur:
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
The following are the other symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Problems sleeping
How is pheochromocytoma diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review your symptoms and medical history.
The doctor may order the following tests:
- CT scan of the abdomen
- MRI of abdomen
- PET scan of the abdomen
- MIBG scintiscan
- Adrenal gland biopsy
- Serum catecholamines
- Urine catecholamines
- Urine metanephrines
- Glucose test
How is pheochromocytoma treated?
Usually, surgery is used to remove the tumor.
If the tumor is found to be cancerous, the doctor will treat with chemotherapy and/or radiation after surgery.
If the tumor cannot be removed surgically, the doctor may manage the condition with medicines. The doctor may prescribe a combination of medicines to control the effects of high levels of hormones.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.