Common Cancer You've Never Heard Of

Tumor causes spike in adrenaline production

 You may have never heard of it, but a cancer once considered rare is becoming more common.

The symptoms are not unique: high blood pressure, rapid heart beat, severe headaches, sweating, and anxiety. Experts say that's one of the reasons that pheochromocytoma is often misdiagnosed.

"I always attributed it to being under stress because I was always in the office," said Edward Kauffman, a local pheochromocytoma patient.

Some frustrated patients went years before doctors were able to correctly diagnose the problem.

"I was going to all these specialists trying to find out what was wrong with me," said Adele Lampert, who was prescribed a number of blood pressure medications, none of which helped with her symptoms. "I kept getting worse and worse."

Pheochromocytoma is characterized as a small tumor on the adrenal gland. The tumor forces the gland to producer large amounts of adrenaline, which causes the nervous symptoms.

"The symptoms are very vague and it's very difficult to think of pheochromocytoma at the beginning because... those symptoms may resemble many other problems," said National Institutes of Health investigator Dr. Karel Pacak.

Doctors say simply testing for large amounts of adrenaline in the bloodstream is a good predictor of this type of cancer.

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