Pheochromocytoma

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Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that grows in the medulla region of the adrenal gland. It starts usually non-cancerous (benign) and develops into malignancy.  The adrenal medulla helps in producing hormones called epinephrine or adrenaline hormone and norepinephrine or noradrenaline, which helps during stress or danger. They also help increase blood flow, heart rate, etc. […] Read More

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Pheochromocytoma

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that grows in the medulla region of the adrenal gland. It starts usually non-cancerous (benign) and develops into malignancy.  The adrenal medulla helps in producing hormones called epinephrine or adrenaline hormone and norepinephrine or noradrenaline, which helps during stress or danger. They also help increase blood flow, heart rate, etc. In pheochromocytomas, these hormones are produced in excess, hence, affecting the body’s normal physiological responses. Pheochromocytomas can also be found in the abdomen, pelvis, chest, and neck. Recent studies have shown that pheochromocytoma occurs in an estimate of 1-2 individuals per 100,000 persons per year. Men and women can be affected, especially those in their 40s and 50s, sometimes even in people in their 20s. it has high blood pressure as one of its primary symptoms. It could also be inherited. About 20% to 35% of pheochromocytomas are discovered to be inherited. RISK FACTOR The risk factors involved in pheochromocytomas include some genetic conditions such as:  DIAGNOSIS  One of the major ways of diagnosing pheochromocytomas is by observing the level of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine in the body. This can be done by
  • Urine Test; which involves using 24-hour urine collection by a special urine container that has a small amount of preservative. Although it could be inconvenient, it is quite reliable.
  • Blood Tests; which can be carried out such as blood plasma tests.
  • Imaging Tests; done in other to locate the pheochromocytomas such as cross-section scans, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Genetic Testing can also be done.
TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT One of the major ways of treating pheochromocytomas is through surgeries. However, before surgery, some medications can be taken which helps to block the actions of high adrenaline hormones, to reduce the risk of high blood pressure during surgery. Such medications include alpha-blockers such as prazosin, phenoxybenzamine, etc, and beta-blockers, which reduces heart rate, like metoprolol, propranolol, etc Also, you will be asked to increase your salt intake, which aids in balancing the effect of the medications on the blood vessels. Other treatment methods include: COMPLICATIONS OF PHEOCHROMOCYTOMAS Since the hormone epinephrine and norepinephrine are major regulators of blood pressure in the body, untreated pheochromocytomas may lead to:
  • Damage to body organs
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancerous cells may travel to the lymph system, liver, sometimes lungs and bones

Symptoms

SYMPTOMS OF PHEOCHROMOCYTOMA

The symptoms of pheochromocytoma include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Severe headaches
  • Increase heart rate
  • Profuse sweating
  • Feeling of hotness
  • Chest pain
  • Anxiety
  • Sometimes, pains at the upper part of the stomach.
  • Constipation may also occur.
  • Irregular heartbeat.

Causes

CAUSES OF PHEOCHROMOCYTOMA

Pheochromocytoma can be caused by tumors occurring in the specialized cells that are responsible for the hormone precursor amino acid, which is predominantly found in the adrenal medulla.

FAQ

Are pheochromocytomas dangerous?

Since pheochromocytomas affect one of the essential hormones in the body, the catecholamines, they can be considered dangerous. Catecholamines – epinephrine and norepinephrine, controls the regulation of blood flow in the body. They are considered high-risk tumors.

How often are pheochromocytomas cancerous?

Most pheochromocytomas are benign. Only About 10% of pheochromocytomas have been recorded to be malignant, which could be due to mutations in the genes.

What food trigger pheochromocytoma?

Foods that are rich in tyramine should be avoided as it tends to increase the rate of blood flow in the body. Such food rich in tyramine includes overripe food, fermented food, cheese, etc.

Is pheochromocytoma dangerous during pregnancy?

Definitely. Pheochromocytoma during pregnancy is dangerous to both mother and child. It increases the blood pressure of the mother and can cause damage to the kidney, affecting also the oxygen of the baby and cause premature birth. Generally, it could complicate the pregnancy and delivery.

What is the best test for pheochromocytoma?

A blood plasma test is considered the best for diagnosing pheochromocytomas.