WellSpan Home

Health Library

Pheochromocytoma in Children

What is a pheochromocytoma?

Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal glands. The tumor makes hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine. This leads to an excess of the hormones in the body. These hormones help manage heart rate and blood pressure, and they have other tasks. Too much of these hormones in the body causes problems. Pheochromocytoma is rare and occurs most often in adults from ages 20 and 50. But about 10% of cases are in children ages 6 to 14. A child may have more than one tumor.

What causes a pheochromocytoma?

The tumor can be caused by both genes and environmental factors. About a quarter of the cases are part of a hereditary disease such as:

  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndromes

Who is at risk for pheochromocytoma?

A child is at higher risk for pheochromocytoma if he or she has any of these:

  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndromes

What are the symptoms of pheochromocytoma?

The most common symptom is high blood pressure, which can be very high. The high blood pressure can cause:

  • Headache
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating

Other symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They may include:                                                               

  • Fast pulse
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Poor weight gain despite a good appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Belly (abdominal) pain or bloating 
  • Pale skin
  • Moist skin

The symptoms of pheochromocytoma can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is pheochromocytoma diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:

  • Blood tests and urine tests. These tests measure hormone levels.
  • MRI. This test uses a large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of tissues in the body.
  • CT scan. This test uses a series of X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan can show bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than regular X-rays.
  • Radioisotope scan. This test uses radioactive substances to create an image of the adrenal gland.
  • Genetic testing. This testing looks for genetic diseases as a possible cause of the tumor. 

How is pheochromocytoma treated?

Treatment is done by removing the tumor or tumors with surgery. Before surgery, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to lower the high blood pressure. Most people are cured with surgery. But in some people, the tumor can grow back.

What are possible complications of pheochromocytoma?

Complications can include heart damage or stroke caused by high blood pressure.

How is pheochromocytoma managed?

Ongoing medical care may be needed to check for growth of a new tumor. Family members may also want to consider genetic testing to see who else may be at risk for pheochromocytoma.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Get medical care for your child right away if he or she has episodes that include a headache, fast heart rate, and sweating. If your child has high blood pressure or other symptoms of pheochromocytoma, talk with your child's healthcare provider.        

Key points about pheochromocytoma

  • Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal glands. The tumor makes hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine. This leads to an excess of the hormones in the body. A child may have more than one tumor.
  • These hormones help manage heart rate and blood pressure, and have other tasks.
  • The most common symptom is high blood pressure, which can be very high. The high blood pressure can cause headache, fast heart rate, and sweating.
  • Treatment is done by removing the tumor or tumors with surgery. Most people are cured with surgery. But in some people, the tumor can grow back.
  • Complications can include heart damage or stroke caused by high blood pressure.
  • Family members may also want to consider genetic testing to see who else may be at risk for pheochromocytoma.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Pheochromocytoma in Children - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Last Review Date: 2015-09-14T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2015-12-16T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-12-16T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×