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Pheochromocytoma

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Pheochromocytoma

UW Health surgeons treat pheochromocytoma, a tumor made up of adrenal gland cells that secretes excessive amounts of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Most pheochromocytoma tumors grow on the adrenal glands, which are situated at the top of the kidneys.
 
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
 
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 
Diagnosis
  
Tests can include: 
  • 24-hour urine testing to measure amounts of certain hormones produced by the adrenal glands
  • Blood testing
  • Biopsy to surgically remove a small piece of the tumor for examination
  • CAT scan, ultrasound, MRI and other imaging tests 
 CT Scan of Pheochromocytoma
 CT scan showing pheochromocytoma
 Treatment
 
The majority of pheochromocytoma tumors can be removed in a minimally-invasive surgical procedure called laparoscopic 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.