Pheochromocytoma: A Benign Adrenal Tumor

What Is Pheochromocytoma?

adrenal gland tumors

Pheochromocytoma is a non-cancerous tumor that forms on the medulla of the adrenal glands. This tumor secretes excess amounts of adrenaline. The condition is very rare, with fewer than 20,000 cases per year.

Causes

The exact cause of many pheochromocytoma cases is unknown, but most are familial and the result of a genetic gene mutation.

Types

There is only one type of pheochromocytoma.

Symptoms

  • Random and recurrent episodes of high blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Abdomen pain
  • Tremors
  • Pale skin
  • Difficulty breathing

Pheochromocytoma

Diagnosis

Your primary care physician can diagnose pheochromocytoma, but they will likely refer you to a geneticist for further diagnostic testing. A 24-hour urine test can assess the levels of certain hormones that would be indicative of an adrenal tumor. Blood panels can also be used to assess these levels. Diagnostic imaging such as abdominal ultrasounds can sometimes show a tumor on the adrenal glands.

Treatment

The primary treatment for pheochromocytoma is surgery to remove the tumor from the adrenal gland. Until the tumor can be removed, anti-hypertensive medications are used to keep the patient’s blood pressure under control.

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