Cancer Home > Pheochromocytoma
Pheochromocytomas are tumors that most often develop in special cells of the adrenal gland. This type of tumor produces an excess of a certain type of hormone, which can result in serious complications. Symptoms can include severe high blood pressure, headaches, and sweating. In general, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
A pheochromocytoma is a tumor that most commonly occurs within special cells of the adrenal gland called chromaffin cells. This type of tumor produces too many hormones called catecholamines, which include adrenaline. The high levels of these hormones can cause potential serious complications, including severe high blood pressure.
Most pheochromocytomas start within the inside part of the adrenal gland called the adrenal medulla where most chromaffin cells are located. There are two adrenal glands, one above each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. Cells in the adrenal glands make important hormones that help the body work properly, called catecholamines. Catecholamines produced by the adrenal gland include epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and (rarely) dopamine.
A pheochromocytoma makes large amounts of catecholamines, which can result in serious complications. Usually this type of tumor affects only one adrenal gland. It may also start in other parts of the body, such as the area around the heart or bladder.
Most tumors that start in the chromaffin cells do not spread to other parts of the body, meaning they are not cancer. These are called benign tumors. If a tumor is found, the doctor will need to determine whether it is cancerous or benign.
A pheochromocytoma is sometimes part of a condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome (MEN). People with MEN often have other cancers (such as thyroid cancer) and other hormonal problems.