The success of pheochromocytoma treatment depends upon several factors; the most important include: presence of metastasis, genetics, location, and overall extent of the disease. Malignant pheochromocytoma can only be determined by the presence of metastasis or tumor spreading (tumors in locations such as the bone, liver, lungs, or lymph nodes).
The only curative treatment for pheochromocytoma is complete surgical removal of the tumor. The long-term prognosis of patients after resection of a single sporadic pheochromocytoma is excellent. However, it is common for a patient to continue to have high blood pressure after surgery (nearly 50% of patients).
Recurrence (or return) of the disease occurs in 17% of patients, with half of these patients showing signs of the malignant form of the disease. Recurrence happens more often in patients with paragangliomas (33% have recurrence) than in those with pheochromocytomas (14%). Additionally, patients with family members who have the disease have recurrence more often (33%) than patients who do not (13%).1
There is currently no cure for malignant pheochromocytoma. Radiation therapy, or the use of radio waves to destroy tumors, can assist in shrinking some malignant tumors.2 Tumor shrinkage can lessen the clinical signs and symptoms of pheochromocytoma by reducing the production of hormones and in some cases may allow for surgery.
Although not curative, medications are used to control the clinical signs and symptoms of both benign and malignant pheochromocytoma.
- Lenders, J. W., Eisenhofer, G., Mannelli, M., & Pacak, K. (2005.) Phaeochromocytoma. Lancet 366: 665-675. [top]
- National Cancer Institute. (2012). Pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma treatment (PDQ): Patient version. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/pheochromocytoma/Patient/page4/Print [top]