UW Health surgeons treat pheochromocytoma, a tumor made up of adrenal gland cells that secretes excessive amounts of epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline), which regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Most pheochromocytoma tumors grow on the adrenal glands, which are situated at the top of the kidneys.
Dr. Rebecca Sippel on Pheochromocytoma
The cause of the tumors is not yet known, but risk factors associated with the condition include family history of pheochromocytoma, tumors in other glands of the body or other hormonal disorders. Deficiencies of iron or copper and diets high in manganese have also been associated with pheochromocytoma.
Symptoms can be present many times a day, or as infrequently as once every few months. They include:
- Severe headaches
- Excessive sweating
- Fast heart rate or pounding heart beat
- Involuntary trembling
- Tingling, burning, numbness in the legs and feet
- Chest pain and pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
Tests can include:
- 24-hour urine testing to measure amounts of certain hormones produced by the adrenal glands
- Blood testing
- CAT scan, ultrasound, MRI and other imaging tests
The majority of pheochromocytoma tumors can be removed in minimally invasive surgical procedures, either laparoscopic adrenalectomy or retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy. Most patients are able to go home the day after surgery.
If the tumor is cancerous, several treatment options are available, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.