Adrenal Tumor - CT Scan

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Adrenal Gland Tumor / CT Scan of the Abdomen

What is a pheochromocytoma?
A pheochromocytoma is a rare type of tumor. It grows in the middle of an adrenal gland. Your body has 2 adrenal glands. They are found on top of each kidney. Each layer of these glands makes different hormones. The middle part of the adrenal glands makes epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones help keep your heart rate and blood pressure normal. A pheochromocytoma causes the adrenal glands to make too much of these hormones.

What causes pheochromocytoma?
It’s not known what causes this type of tumor.

Who is at risk for pheochromocytoma?
Pheochromocytomas happen equally in men and women. They often show up when you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s.
If someone in your family has this type of tumor, you are more likely to get it. This tumor does not seem to be affected by environment, diet, or lifestyle. If you have this tumor, you should consider genetic testing.

What are the symptoms of pheochromocytoma?
The most common sign of a pheochromocytoma is high blood pressure. It can be constant or sometimes high. Sometimes the tumor can cause high blood pressure that can be life threatening. It is a very rare cause of high blood pressure. But it must be considered when medicine is not enough to control high blood pressure. Other symptoms are less common. They can be brought on when you are under stress or when you change positions. The following are the most common symptoms. But each person may have symptoms in a different way.

  • Rapid pulse
  • Feeling that your heart is beating fast or fluttering (palpitations)
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Clammy skin
  • Tremor
  • Anxiety

The symptoms of a pheochromocytoma may look like other health problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is pheochromocytoma diagnosed?
In addition to a complete health history and physical exam, you may need:

  • Blood and urine tests. These tests measure hormone levels.
  • CT scan. This test uses X-rays and computer technology to take detailed images of your body.
  • MRI. This test uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make images of organs and structures within your body.
  • Radioisotope scan. This test puts radioactive substances into your body to take an image of the tumor. The substance is absorbed into tissues that make too much of the hormone epinephrine. During the scan this area lights up. This whole-body scan can show if the disease is spreading or if you have disease in other parts of your body.

CT Scan of the Abdomen

What is a CT scan of the abdomen?
CT scan is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, soft tissues, organs, and blood vessels. They are more detailed than regular X-rays.
In a CT scan, an X-ray beam moves in a circle around your body. This allows many different views of the same part of the body. The X-ray information is sent to a computer that interprets the X-ray data and displays it on a monitor.
During some tests you receive a contrast dye, which can be given orally, though a vein, or both ways. This will make parts of your body show up better in the image. CT scans of the abdomen can give more detailed information than regular X-rays. CT scans can give healthcare providers more information about injuries and/or diseases of the abdominal organs.

Why might I need a CT scan of the abdomen?
The abdomen contains many organs. These include the gastrointestinal, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive systems. A CT scan of the abdomen may be used to check the abdomen and its organs for:

  • Tumors or other lesions
  • Injuries
  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Unexplained belly pain
  • Blockages
  • Other health problems

A CT scan may be done when another type of exam, such as an X-ray or physical exam, is not conclusive. It may also be used to check tumors and other conditions of the abdomen before and after treatment. Or it can be done to guide the needle during biopsies and other procedures. A biopsy is when a small piece of tissue is removed so it can be examined in the lab. There may be other reasons that you may need a CT scan of the abdomen. Check with your healthcare provider for more information.