Pheochromocytomas & Paragangliomas

Pheochromocytomas & Paragangliomas

Pheochromocytomas are tumors that produce too much of the hormones called catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine). Normally, these hormones help the body deal with stress. Too much of either one can lead to serious conditions, such as high blood pressure and stroke.

Most pheochromocytomas start in the adrenal medulla, in the adrenal glands. An estimated 800 new cases of pheochromocytoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Nine out of ten are benign and won’t spread beyond the adrenal gland.

Paragangliomas are a type of neuroendocrine tumor found in the abdomen, pelvis, chest, and neck.

Symptoms of both types of tumors include:

  • sweating
  • headaches
  • high blood pressure
  • rapid heart rate
  • palpitations
  • anxiety and fear
  • high blood sugar

In some people, pheochromocytomas cause sudden cardiac arrest or stroke. They can also cause a dangerous surge in adrenaline in intense situations, like during surgery or after experiencing a severe injury.

Multiple endocrine neoplasia and von Hippel-Lindau disease are genetic conditions that can increase the risk of developing pheochromocytomas and other tumors. Our Clinical Genetics Service can evaluate you if you have signs of these conditions.