Pheochromocytoma is a condition when there is tumour in the medulla of the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are the place where catecholamines are produced, the hormones which are responsible for flight or fight syndrome.
Chromaffin cells present in various parts of the body also secrete catecholamines and such a condition is called external pheochromocytoma.
Most of the tumours discovered in the medulla are benign, some of the tumours may be malignant and turn into cancer.
When a person is suffering from pheochromocytoma he may experience headaches, palpitations and high blood pressure. The blood pressure may come and go and needs to be checked frequently. Other symptoms that may accompany are weight loss, nausea, dizziness, and abdominal pain.
Pheochromocytoma is a genetic problem and is handed over from parents to children through a dominant gene. If parents have the condition, there is 100% chance of the child inheriting the problem. In rare cases which is called sporadic, there is no genetic factor which leads to pheochromocytoma.
A person should immediately visit a doctor when he experiences the symptoms of pheochromocytoma. For many patients the condition is asymptomatic and a chance visit to the doctor helps reveal the condition.
Doctors will recommend urine collection tests to understand the levels of catecholamines and metanephrine in the blood. When the levels are 2 times higher than normal, the person may be asked to undertake MRI and CT scan to identify the tumours.
Surgery is the only way out, in episodes where the tumour is malignant. Doctors may recommend radiation therapy or chemotherapy for diagnosis.
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