What is Pheochromocytoma?
Pheochromocytoma or ‘Pheo’ is a rare tumor that develops between the adrenal glands. Affecting the production of adrenaline, norepinephrine, and epinephrine hormones in the body, this tumor puts the body into a state of stress-response, causing blood pressure to rise.
The adrenal glands are two small endocrine glands that are found just above the two kidneys. These glands help in creating and distributing important hormones in the body, including adrenaline and cortisol. Pheochromocytoma tumor grows on the outside of adrenal glands and affects a lot of other bodily functions too.
The Pheochromocytoma symptoms vary according to the person’s age, lifestyle, health conditions, etc. Almost 60% of the people with Pheochromocytoma experience constant or occasional high blood pressure. This can last a few seconds or hours and can occur several times a day or occasionally per month worsening with time.
The most common symptoms of Pheochromocytoma are:
- Palpitations in the heart
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heart rate
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- High blood sugar
- Mood swings
Who is at Risk?
Pheochromocytoma risk factors are linked to age and are most common in early to middle adulthood. Certain red flags for when an individual might be at risk are:
- May appear randomly as one crosses the age of 30 or 40
- Genetic inheritance from parents who have suffered from Pheochromocytoma or linked diseases
The Pheochromocytoma causes depend a lot upon the family history of diseases and the underlying health conditions one is suffering from. However, here are some of the possible causes for you:
- Pheochromocytoma is linked to reduced oxygen supply (hypoxia) i.e. diseases like hypertension, high blood pressure and congenital heart disease can trigger the disease.
- It can be genetically inherited from parents who may have developed through associated genetic conditions, linked diseases, etc.
- Conditions like Von Hippel-Lindau Disease, Neurofibromatosis type 1, etc are the diseases that can trigger Pheochromocytoma because these diseases cause the growth of cysts/tumors across central nervous system, kidneys, adrenal glands, optic nerves, and other body areas.
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) – a type of thyroid cancer developed in conjunction with Pheochromocytoma
How is Pheochromocytoma diagnosed?
Pheochromocytoma affects different people differently. And because it is rare, Pheochromocytoma diagnosis can be difficult too. If a person experiences any of the Pheochromocytoma symptoms, they can consult a doctor who will conduct a series of Pheochromocytoma tests to check for the key markers of the condition. They are:
- Blood or Urine Tests: Blood/Urine tests can reveal if a person has very high levels of adrenaline or non-adrenaline hormones in the body
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests like CT scan or MRI can confirm the presence of tumor in the glands.
- Genetic Testing: Genetic testing reveals if the person has a gene mutation that increases their risk of Pheochromocytoma or any other form of tumors. All the family members are screened here to trace the gene mutation.
Care.Fit is a trusted healthcare provider for consultation with trusted doctors for a range of health needs. If you are looking for a medical requirement, consultation, or Pheochromocytoma treatment, you can visit the website or download the app for solicited guidance.
How is Pheochromocytoma treated?
The Pheochromocytoma treatment varies depending on the development of the tumor, and if it is affecting one or both the adrenal glands.
- When Pheochromocytoma is present in only one gland, a surgery is conducted to remove the tumor or the gland entire, depending upon the situation. The remaining gland is sufficient to produce enough hormones for the body to survive.
- If the tumor appears in both the adrenal glands, the general surgeon tries to remove the tumor tissue only. If this treatment becomes difficult, then both the glands are removed, making the patient dependent on steroids to replace their hormones.
- If Pheochromocytoma is cancerous, the Pheochromocytoma doctor advises for cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy after the surgery
In some cases, the tumor is malignant and recurs after some time. Pheochromocytoma cure then includes:
- Iodine isotopes
- Radiation therapy
P.S. Usually the patient is put under medication to balance out complications like heart palpitations, high blood pressure, etc to conduct the surgery safely.
How can Pheochromocytoma be prevented?
As the tumor arises mostly due to age or gene mutation, there is no sure way for Pheochromocytoma prevention. However, one can reduce the risk factors by:
- Maintaining an active and healthy life
- Quitting smoking as it is one of the major causes for the growth of cancerous tissues in the body.
- Exercising daily as it flushes out toxins and waste from the body, thereby purifying blood and optimizing body functions.
- Conducting regular health checkups as a preventive measure