Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What are adrenal tumors?

There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney toward the back. Tumors of the adrenal glands are rare. However, when present, they can cause a many problems by excess secretion of certain adrenal-produced hormones. One type of tumor of the adrenal glands is called a pheochromocytoma.

What is a pheochromocytoma?

A pheochromocytoma is an adrenal gland tumor that secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating heart rate and blood pressure, among other functions. Pheochromocytomas occur most frequently in young to middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 60.

What are the symptoms of pheochromocytoma?

The most common symptom of pheochromocytoma is high blood pressure, which is sometimes extreme. Other symptoms are usually nonexistent, unless the person experiences pressure from the tumor, emotional stress or changes in posture, or is taking beta-blocker drugs for a heart disorder. The following are the most common symptoms of pheochromocytoma; however, each individual may experience symptoms differently:

  • Rapid pulse
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Clammy skin

The symptoms of pheochromocytoma may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.