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Adrenal Pheochromocytoma


  • Adrenal (ah-DREE-nal) pheochromocytoma (fee-o-kro-mo-si-TO-mah) is a rare tumor of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are triangular-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce hormones and chemicals that keep blood sugar and blood pressure levels normal. With adrenal pheochromocytoma, cells grow and divide without control or order, making too much tissue. The increased tissue causes more hormones to be released in the body, which causes blood pressure to rise. Most adrenal pheochromocytomas are benign (noncancerous) and can be treated easily. They may also be malignant (cancerous) and spread to other areas of the body. An adrenal pheochromocytoma may be sporadic (occurring for the first time in a family). It may also be familial or hereditary and be caused by a disorder, such as neurofibromatosis, that runs in families.
  • Signs and symptoms may include hypertension (high blood pressure), headache, palpitations (fast heartbeats), and increased sweating. Other signs may include abdominal (stomach) pain, nervousness, nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), trouble breathing, and weight loss. Adrenal pheochromocytoma is usually diagnosed by blood or urine tests, computed tomography (CT) scan, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. You may also need a bone scan, scintigraphy, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, or an ultrasound. Depending on the type of tumor that you have, treatment may include medicines, surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. The chances of curing an adrenal pheochromocytoma are better when it is found and treated as early as possible.
    Male Endocrine System
    Female Endocrine System


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

  • If you are using chemotherapy, take your medicine exactly as you are told.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


It is important that you get good nutrition and eat a variety of healthy foods. Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. Ask your caregiver about any extra nutrition you may need, such as nutrition shakes or vitamins. Tell your caregiver if you have problems eating, or if you are getting sick to your stomach. Eat different foods from the following groups every day:

  • Bread, cereal, rice and pasta.
  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Meat, poultry (chicken), fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts.
  • Ask your caregiver how many servings of fats, oils and sweets should be included in your diet.
  • Adrenal pheochromocytoma can cause blood sugar changes. A dietitian may work with you to help you choose the best foods to control your blood sugar. You may need to eat certain amounts of these foods at specific times during the day. Ask your caregiver how your favorite foods may fit into your diet.

Blood sugar checks:

You may need to check your blood sugar several times each day. To do this, you may have to use a glucose monitor. This is a small device that tells how much sugar is in your blood. All monitors use a small drop of blood. Usually the blood is from a prick on your finger. Ask your caregiver for more information about what your blood sugar level should be and how it should be treated.

Drinking liquids:

Adults should drink about 9 to 13 cups of liquid each day. One cup is 8 ounces. Good choices of liquids for most people include water, juice, and milk. Coffee, soup, and fruit may be counted in your daily liquid amount. Ask your caregiver how much liquid you should drink each day.

Learn ways to manage stress. Deep breathing, meditation, and listening to music may help you cope with stressful events. Talk to your caregiver about other ways to manage stress.

Rest as often as you need to.

Rest is important for your recovery. Do not return to your regular activities too quickly. Start slowly and do more as you feel stronger. Rest during the day. Plan for 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Contact your primary healthcare provider if you are not able to sleep.


  • You cannot make it to your radiation or chemotherapy appointment.
  • You have chills or feel weak and achy.
  • You have nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up) and cannot keep food or liquids down.
  • Your pain is worse or does not go away even after taking your pain medicines.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • Your wound is tender, swollen, reddened, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, medicine, or care.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have a very bad headache, or you feel dizzy.
  • You have blurred or double vision.
  • You have trouble breathing or a fast heartbeat.
  • Your signs and symptoms are getting worse.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Adrenal Pheochromocytoma (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes