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Also called: Pheochromocytosis, Pheo, Adrenal Gland Tumor

- Summary
- About pheochromocytoma
- Risk factors and causes
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis methods
- Treatment and prevention
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Sumit Verma, M.D., FACC
Kerry Prewitt, M.D., FACC
Stephen D. Shappell, M.D., FACC, FCCP, FACP


Pheochromocytoma is an abnormal group of cells (tumor) that secretes hormones that may raise blood pressure. Pheochromocytomas may appear singly or in groups. In about 90 percent of cases, these tumors develop in the abdomen, most often in the adrenal glands near the kidneys. They may also appear in the chest or neck. About 90 percent of pheochromocytomas are benign. The remaining tumors are cancerous and may spread throughout the body.

Pheochromocytomas are rare. They are estimated to occur in less than 1 percent of paHypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure (the force of blood against artery walls).tients with high blood pressure. About 800 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, with most occurring in patients between the ages of 30 and 50.  Doctors may test for this condition if people are not responding to blood pressure medication or are experiencing certain symptoms (e.g., headaches, dizziness, palpitations).

Any diagnosis of pheochromocytoma will be immediately followed by tests to exactly locate the tumor(s). After the tumor is located, the physician will attempt to determine if it is benign or cancerous.

The standard treatment for pheochromocytoma is surgery after the patient has been stabilized with medication. Stabilization usually includes blood pressure medications to prevent medical emergencies related to elevated blood pressure.  Patients with cancerous tumors may also receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

About 75 percent of patients will no longer have high blood pressure after treatment of the pheochromocytoma. For the remaining 25 percent, their high blood pressure is usually controllable with medications and other conventional treatments.

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Review Date: 02-28-2007

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