For a person with a pheochromocytoma, symptoms may include high blood pressure, headaches, sweating, heart palpitations, and chest pain. Other symptoms may include feelings of anxiety, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms of pheochromocytoma are caused by the extra catecholamines produced by the adrenal glands as a result of the tumor.
A pheochromocytoma usually develops over time. As the cells grow within the adrenal gland, they can spread more deeply. Most pheochromocytomas are benign (noncancerous), so they do not spread outside the adrenal gland. If a pheochromocytoma is cancerous, it can grow within the adrenal gland and also to surrounding areas. When cancerous pheochromocytoma spreads (metastasizes) outside the adrenal gland, cancer cells are often found in tissues around the adrenal gland, the lymph nodes, or other parts of the body.
Pheochromocytomas cause the adrenal glands to make too many hormones called catecholamines (which include adrenaline). The extra catecholamines cause common pheochromocytoma symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart palpitations
- Pain in the chest
- Flushing of the face
- Feelings of anxiety