What is it?
A pheochromocytoma (fee-o-kroe-moe-sy-toe-muh) is a rare, usually noncancerous (benign) tumor that develops in cells in the center of an adrenal gland. If left untreated, a pheochromocytoma can result in severe or life-threatening damage to other body systems, especially the cardiovascular system.
How do they know it's a pheo?
There is no "definitive" test for a pheo, medically speaking. Initial testing for a pheo is typically a 24-hour urine test. This may be followed by or include having blood drawn for laboratory work.
The urine test is looking for elevated levels of creatinine, total level of catecholamines, vanillylmandelic acid (an excretion of catecholamines), and metanephrines (a chemical byproduct of catecholamines).
If the results of urine or laboratory tests indicate the possibility of a pheo, your doctor will order one or more imaging tests to locate a possible tumor. These tests may include a CT, MRI, MIBG, Ultrasound, or PET scan.
Once the tumor is removed, then they usually biopsy it. This is to make sure it is benign and confirm it is a pheochromocytoma and not another type of tumor.
A pheochromocytoma (fee-o-kroe-moe-sy-toe-muh). Often called a pheo, for short.