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A pheochromocytoma is a rare hormone-secreting tumor, usually of the adrenal glands. It secretes the hormones epinephrine (adrenalin) and norepinephrine (noradrenalin). These hormones have a major influence on blood pressure, and the majority of symptoms are related to the very high blood pressures that can arise. These symptoms include headaches, a feeling of a racing heart beat (palpitations), abdominal pain, dizziness, sweating, paleness, or vomiting. Seizures due to the high blood pressure can occur. The child may have chest pains, and eventually show signs of heart failure with enlargement of the liver and spleen. The body metabolism may run so fast under the constant barrage of adrenalin that there is weight loss.
The illness is usually diagnosed first by the discovery of elevated blood pressure and its associated findings, and then confirmed by the presence of elevated levels of epinephrin and norepinephrin and their metabolic breakdown products in the urine and bloodstream. The tumors are localized by ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan. Treatment is surgical removal of the tumors.