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MSD Manual

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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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What is a pheochromocytoma?

A pheochromocytoma is a type of tumor that makes hormones that raise your blood pressure. Most pheochromocytomas grow in your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys.

  • Some pheochromocytomas are cancerous but most aren't

  • Pheochromocytomas are often caused by genetic diseases

  • Pheochromocytomas usually happen between ages 20 and 40

  • You have high blood pressure that sometimes comes and goes

  • You may have headaches, sweating, and feel your heart beating fast and pounding

  • Doctors usually do surgery to take out a pheochromocytoma

What causes a pheochromocytoma?

Pheochromocytomas are often caused by rare genetic diseases, such as:

You can also get pheochromocytoma without having one of these diseases. Doctors don't know the cause of pheochromocytoma in these people.

What are the symptoms of a pheochromocytoma?

Symptoms include:

  • Fast, pounding heart

  • Sweating

  • Feeling light-headed when standing

  • Fast breathing

  • Cold and clammy skin

  • Severe headaches

Symptoms often come and go and may feel like a panic attack.

How can doctors tell if I have a pheochromocytoma?

Doctors test for a pheochromocytoma using:

If you have a pheochromocytoma, doctors may also do genetic tests to see if a rare condition is causing a pheochromocytoma.

How do doctors treat a pheochromocytoma?

Doctors give you medicine to control your blood pressure and then do:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor

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