What Are The First Symptoms Of Paraganglioma & How Do You Test For It?

The classic signs and symptoms of paraganglioma include increased blood pressure, irregular rhythmic pattern of heartbeat, profuse sweating, headache, and tremors.1,2

There are several tests you would require determining the condition if cancerous or not, and the main objective of diagnosis is to determine the increased levels of catecholamine in the body.3

Your healthcare provider will request a 24-hour urine test or a blood test to look for evidence of excessive adrenaline or non-adrenaline secretion.4

What Are The First Symptoms Of Paraganglioma?

The classic signs and symptoms of paraganglioma include increased blood pressure, irregular rhythmic pattern of heartbeat, profuse sweating, headache, and tremors. However, in 10% of the cases, blood pressure remains normal. Furthermore, paraganglioma patients suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. This may cause difficulty in breathing with excessive weakness and a sense of depression.

There are other less common symptoms such as blurred vision, hearing loss, pale face, loss of weight, increased insulin level, abdominal pain, and social & emotional problems. Although not everyone with paraganglioma will experience these symptoms yet it can happen during a medical procedure, surgery, or eating certain foods that increase the release of catecholamine hormones.

The excess release of these hormones can be life-threatening and can cause stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Even certain medications such as monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors can trigger the above-mentioned symptoms.1,2

How Do You Test For Paraganglioma?

There are several tests you would require determining paraganglioma if cancerous or not, and the main objective of diagnosis is to determine the increased levels of catecholamine in the body. They also do the test to determine whether cancer has spread to different parts of the body.

The cancerous spread is called metastasis and imaging studies can reveal the pictures of the inside of the body and show if cancer has spread. A biopsy is the only sure way to determine if the abnormal cells are cancerous in nature or benign. However, the biopsy can result in the life-threatening release of the flight and fright hormone-producing severe symptoms.3

Therefore, your doctor may suggest a series of tests for diagnosis paraganglioma. However not all the tests apply to every individual.

24-Hour Urine Test And Blood Test- Your healthcare provider will request a 24-hour urine test or a blood test to look for shreds of evidence of excessive adrenaline or non-adrenaline secretion.

Computed Tomography- A CT scan takes pictures of the structures inside of the body using an x-ray obtained from different angles. This will determine the abnormalities in the tumor. A combination of one or more imaging tests will be performed to diagnose accurately the location of the tumor.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves that scans and produces detailed images of the organs and tissues.4

These tests are generally performed by genetic specialists.

Catecholamine is an important part of the body’s stress response function acting as neurotransmitters and hormones within the body. When hormone secretion becomes excess, it can increase the breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, headache, and a few others.

Dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine are physiologically active and the adrenal glands make large amounts of catecholamines to fight against stress. Adrenalin is one of the most common catecholamines. A paraganglioma is a rare form of tumor that produces excess adrenaline.

References:

  1. “Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma – Symptoms and Signs.” Cancer.Net, 29 Mar. 2019, www.cancer.net/cancer-types/pheochromocytoma-and-paraganglioma/symptoms-and-signs.
  2. “Neuroendocrine Tumors.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Mar. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/paraganglioma/cdc-20352970.
  3. “Paraganglioma Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis & More.” Pheo Para Alliance, pheopara.org/education/paraganglioma.
  4. “Hereditary Paraganglioma-Pheochromocytoma – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/hereditary-paraganglioma-pheochromocytoma.

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