Pheochromocytoma (tumor of the adrenal gland)

General or Other | - Others | Pheochromocytoma (tumor of the adrenal gland) (Disease)


Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that usually starts in the cells of one of your adrenal glands. Although they are usually benign, pheochromocytomas often cause the adrenal gland to make too many hormones. This can lead to high blood pressure and cause symptoms such as: headaches, sweating, pounding of the heart, chest pain, a feeling of anxiety.

Causes and Risk factors

Sometimes pheochromocytoma is part of another condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome (MEN). People with MEN often have other cancers and other problems involving hormones. Pheochromocytomas secrete adrenaline in an uncontrolled fashion and can cause serious health problems including stroke, heart attack, and even death. Some physicians call pheochromocytoma a pharmacological time bomb because of its danger.

Anyone can develop a pheochromocytoma, from the very young to the elderly. Most arise spontaneously (i. e. are not genetic). There are no known risk factors except in genetic (i. e. inherited or familial) cases.

Diagnosis and treatment

Usually the best treatment is to remove the pheochromocytoma. Surgery is often delayed, however, until doctors can bring the tumors secretion of catecholamines under control with drugs, because having high levels of catecholamines can be dangerous during surgery. Phenoxybenzamin is generally given to stop hormone secretion. Once this step is accomplished, a beta-blocker can safely be given to further control symptoms.