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Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

Pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma are rare tumors that come from the same type of tissue.

Paragangliomas form in nerve tissue in the adrenal glands and near certain blood vessels and nerves. Paragangliomas that form in the adrenal glands are called pheochromocytomas. Paragangliomas that form outside the adrenal glands are called extra-adrenal paragangliomas. In this summary, extra-adrenal paragangliomas are called paragangliomas.

Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that forms in the adrenal medulla (the center of the adrenal gland).

Pheochromocytoma forms in the adrenal glands. There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. Each adrenal gland has two parts. The outer layer of the adrenal gland is the adrenal cortex. The center of the adrenal gland is the adrenal medulla.

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor of the adrenal medulla. Usually, pheochromocytoma affects one adrenal gland, but it may affect both adrenal glands. Sometimes there is more than one tumor in one adrenal gland.

The adrenal glands make important hormones called catecholamines. Adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) are two types of catecholamines that help control heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and the way the body reacts to stress. Sometimes a pheochromocytoma will release extra adrenaline and noradrenaline into the blood and cause symptoms of disease.

Paragangliomas form outside the adrenal gland.

Paragangliomas are rare tumors that form near the carotid artery, along nerve pathways in the head and neck, and in other parts of the body. Some paragangliomas make extra catecholamines called adrenaline and noradrenaline. The release of these extra catecholamines into the blood may cause symptoms of disease.
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Paraganglioma of the head and neck. A rare tumor that often forms near the carotid artery. It may also form along nerve pathways in the head and neck and in other parts of the body.

Certain inherited disorders and changes in certain genes increase the risk of pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor doesn't mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

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