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Adrenal Gland Tumor Symptoms & Diagnosis


Up to 50% of patients have no symptoms. This tumor is found during the investigation of some other unrelated illness.

Symptoms may occur many times during the day. They can also occur as infrequently as once every few months. Symptoms may be brought on by pressure on the tumor (during a massage), medications (such as certain anesthetics and beta-blockers), or intense emotion. Symptoms can include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fast heart rate ( tachycardia )
  • Sensation of a panic attack
  • Vision changes (blurred vision)
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
  • Pounding heart beat (palpitations)
  • Chest pain
  • Involuntary trembling (tremor)
  • Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Warmth, flushing
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure (either sporadic or constant)
  • Tingling, burning, or numbness in the legs and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Intolerant to high temperature


Your doctor will take a medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis of pheochromocytoma may include the following tests:

  • 24-hour urine testing—to measure amounts of catecholamines (a group of hormones made by the adrenal glands near the kidneys), including epinephrine and norepinephrine and their byproducts (metanephrines)
  • Blood testing—to measure catecholamines and metanephrines
  • Clonidine suppression test—a dose of the drug clonidine is given, and blood levels of norepinephrine are tested
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body; used to diagnose the presence of the tumor
  • Ultrasound —a noninvasive test using sound waves, which may be used to help detect adrenal tumors
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to produce cross-sectional or three-dimensional images of the body’s tissues
  • MIBG scintiscan (or adrenal medullary imaging)—an imaging test for diagnosing adrenal tumors, in which tiny amounts of radioactive materials are injected into the body
  • Fluorodopamine PET scan—used when the blood tests indicate presence of pheochromocytoma, but other imaging tests do not reveal the presence of the tumor

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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