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Pheochromocytoma Signs and Symptoms

A pheochromocytoma is a rare type of adrenal gland tumor. A pheochromocytoma occurs in the medulla of the adrenal gland, where the cells secrete certain types of hormones, namely the “fight or flight” hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. These substances are called catecholamines, and it is in these cells that a pheochromocytoma grows.

The catecholamine-secreting cells are sometimes referred to as the chromaffin cells, and they are found in other areas of the body besides the adrenal medulla. We have put together a list of common signs and symptoms of pheochromocytoma.

Signs and Symptoms of Pheochromocytoma

  • Prickly skin
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Loud heart beat
  • Markedly elevated blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Sudden-onset headache
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale skin
  • Weight loss
  • Feelings of extreme fear

Not everyone experiences the signs and symptoms of a pheochromocytoma listed here. Up to 10% of all cases are discovered accidentally, meaning they are discovered during other diagnostic tests.

Pheochromocytomas are rare, and only about 1000 cases are diagnosed in the US each year. It mostly occurs in young or middle-aged adults.  Up to 25% of all pheochromocytomas may be familial, meaning the disorder runs in families.

Most pheochromocytomas are benign and do not spread to other parts of the body. Only 10% of pheochromacytomas are malignant. Cancerous pheochromocytomas can spread to other parts of the body, including the liver, lungs and brain.

Diagnosis of Pheochromocytoma

Tests used to assist in the diagnosis of a pheochromocytoma include blood and urine tests to measure the levels of certain hormones, namely epinephrine and norepinepherine. If the test results indicate the presence of a pheochromocytoma, further imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI will be ordered.

Books For People With Signs and Symptoms of Pheochromocytoma

Pheochromocytoma – A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References
ICON Health Publications
The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Pheochromocytoma: A Revised and Updated Directory for the Internet Age
Icon Health Publications

21st Century Ultimate Medical Guide to Pheochromocytoma – Authoritative, Practical Clinical Information for Physicians and Patients, Treatment Options (Two CD-ROM Set)
PM Medical Health News
21st Century Complete Medical Guide to Rare Cancers (Pheochromocytoma, Adrenocortical Carcinoma, Parathyroid Cancer, Malignant Thymoma, Extracranial … on Diagnosis and Treatment Options
PM Medical Health News

Pheochromocytoma Resources

General Patient Resources

  • National Cancer Institute

Information about pheochromocytoma treatment, clinical trials, and other topics from the National Cancer Institute.

  • Pheochromocytoma

Learn about pheochromocytoma symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

  • Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

A US Department of Health and Human Service project providing information on genetic and rare diseases. A comprehensive body of resources on Pheochromocytoma.

  • Pheochromocytoma Organization

Pheochromocytoma Support and Information. For over a decade, we have been offering support and information for pheochromocytoma.

  • RD

Information including symptoms, diagnosis, misdiagnosis, treatment, causes, patient stories, videos, forums, prevention, and prognosis.

  • Medicine Net . com

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment by Medicine Net . com

  • Pheochromocytoma Support Board

Support Board Support board for those with Pheochromocytoma and related adrenal tumors, including Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia

Medical Resources

  • Mayo Clinic

Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, causes, treatment of this rare adrenal gland tumor.

  • Pub Med Health

Reviews causes, incidence, rsik factors, symptoms, treatment, prognosis and complications.

  • Medline Plus

A service of the US National Library of Medicine.