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Pheochromocytoma (Adrenal Medulla Tumor)

Pheochromocytoma is a tumor found in the adrenal medulla (the inner part of the adrenal gland). The adrenal medulla makes the hormones adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). If a tumor forms in this area, it can cause too much of these hormones to be made. This can be very dangerous, as it causes very high blood pressure. Pheochromocytoma in the adrenal gland is rarely cancer...

Diagnosis

If your health care provider suspects pheochromocytoma, some standard tests that are done are: Biochemical analysis to test plasma metanephrines (a byproducts of hormones in the blood) 24-Hour urine tests to measure hormone levels. Next, CT scans or MRI testing will help your doctor find a mass, its location, and the extent of the problem. Pheochromocytoma happens in less than 1 out of 100 peopl...

Treatment

Controlling high blood pressure with drugs is the first step. Once your blood pressure is stable, surgery may be used to treat the problem. The diseased adrenal gland could be removed with laparoscopic, robotic or open surgery. Most often, the whole adrenal gland is removed. For a smaller tumor, especially in hereditary cases, only the diseased part of the gland is removed. The healthy part of the...

Causes

Pheochromocytoma is rare. It occurs as often in men as women, causing less than 1 out of 100 of all high blood pressure cases. It can develop at any age, but is more common in people 40 to 60 years old. Researchers don’t know what causes most cases. Very few cases are linked to family history. Hereditary cases are seen more often in young patients. If pheochromocytoma is diagnosed before age...

Symptoms

Most patients with pheochromocytoma have high blood pressure. Many patients have three main symptoms: headache, excess sweating and a hard, fast heartbeat (palpitations). You should see your health care provider if: You have high blood pressure that is difficult to control You are taking more than 4 drugs for blood pressure You have high blood pressure before age 35 or after age 60 You have signs...

After Treatment

Most patients feel much better and their blood pressure improves greatly after treatment. A few patients still experience high blood pressure after surgery. Medicine may still be used for blood pressure control in those cases. Long-term follow-up care is important for everyone after treatment. In very rare cases, pheochromocytomas is cancerous and may come back. This is possible even 15 years, or ...

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