Glossary of terms
pheochromocytoma & paraganglioma
Twenty-four-hour urine test:
A test in which urine is collected for 24 hours to measure the amounts of catecholamines (adrenaline or noradrenaline) or metanephrines in the urine. Substances caused by the breakdown of these catecholamines are also measured. An unusual (higher- or lower-than-normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it. Higher-than-normal amounts may be a sign of pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma.
A small gland that makes steroid hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These hormones help control heart rate, blood pressure, and other important body functions. There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. Also called suprarenal gland.
A hormone and neurotransmitter. Also called epinephrine.
Treat conditions such as high blood pressure and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Alpha blockers relax certain muscles and help small blood vessels remain open. They work by keeping the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) from tightening the muscles in the walls of smaller arteries and veins, which causes the vessels to remain open and relaxed. This improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Also called alpha-adrenergic antagonists.
A doctor who has special training in giving drugs or other agents to prevent or relieve pain during surgery or other procedures.
Medications that reduce your blood pressure. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. When you take beta blockers, your heart beats more slowly and with less force, thereby reducing blood pressure. Also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents.
Blood catecholamine studies:
A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amount of certain catecholamines (adrenaline or noradrenaline) released into the blood. Substances caused by the breakdown of these catecholamines are also measured. An unusual (higher- or lower-than-normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it. Higher-than-normal amounts may be a sign of pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma.
A type of neurohormone (a chemical that is made by nerve cells and used to send signals to other cells). Catecholamines are important in stress responses. High levels cause high blood pressure that can lead to headaches, sweating, pounding of the heart, pain in the chest, and anxiety. Examples of catecholamines include dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).
A procedure that uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are taken from different angles and are used to create 3-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the tissues and organs show up more clearly. A CT scan may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment, or find out how well treatment is working. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and computerized tomography.
A doctor who has special training in diagnosing and treating disorders of the endocrine system (the glands and organs that make hormones). These disorders include diabetes, infertility, and thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary gland problems.
Gallium Dotatate Scan:
A procedure to detect areas of the body where cells are dividing rapidly. It is used to locate cancer cells or areas of inflammation. A very small amount of radioactive gallium is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The gallium is taken up by rapidly dividing cells in the bones, tissues, and organs and is detected by a scanner.
A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher. Hypertension usually has no symptoms. It can harm the arteries and cause an increase in the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness. Also called high blood pressure.
A procedure used to find neuroendocrine tumors, such as pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma. A very small amount of a substance called radioactive MIBG is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. Neuroendocrine tumor cells take up the radioactive MIBG and are detected by a scanner. Scans may be taken over 1-3 days. An iodine solution may be given before or during the test to keep the thyroid gland from absorbing too much of the MIBG.
MIBG treatment (I31I-MIBG):
A drug containing a form of radioactive iodine called I 131 that is used to find or treat certain types of tumors, including pheochromocytomas and neuroblastomas. Radiation from I 131 may help kill cancer cells or show where they are in the body. 131I-MIBG is a type of radioconjugate. Also called iobenguane I 131 and iodine I 131-metaiodobenzylguanidine.
A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
A change in the usual DNA sequence at a particular gene locus. Although the term often has a negative connotation, mutations (including polymorphisms) can be harmful, beneficial, or neutral in their effect on cell function. The term variant is sometimes used as a synonym for the term mutation.
A tumor that forms from cells that release hormones into the blood in response to a signal from the nervous system. Neuroendocrine tumors may make higher-than-normal amounts of hormones, which can cause many different symptoms. These tumors may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Some examples of neuroendocrine tumors are carcinoid tumors, islet cell tumors, medullary thyroid cancer, pheochromocytomas, neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin (Merkel cell cancer), small cell lung cancer, and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (a rare type of lung cancer). Also called NET.
A chemical made by some nerve cells and in the adrenal gland. It can act as both a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger used by nerve cells) and a hormone (a chemical that travels in the blood and controls the actions of other cells or organs). Norepinephrine is released from the adrenal gland in response to stress and low blood pressure. Also called noradrenaline.
A branch of medicine that uses small amounts of radioactive substances to make pictures of areas inside the body and to treat disease. In cancer, the radioactive substance may be used with a special machine (such as a PET scanner) to find the cancer, to see how far it has spread, or to see how well a treatment is working. Radioactive substances may also be used to treat certain types of cancer, such as thyroid cancer and lymphoma.
Nuclear medicine scan:
A method that uses radioactive substances to make pictures of areas inside the body. The radioactive substance is injected into the body, and locates and binds to specific cells or tissues, including cancer cells. Images are made using a special machine that detects the radioactive substance. Also called radioimaging.
A rapid or irregular heartbeat that a person can feel.
A substance that blocks an enzyme in cells called PARP. PARP helps repair DNA when it becomes damaged. DNA damage may be caused by many things, including exposure to UV light, radiation, certain anticancer drugs, or other substances in the environment. In cancer treatment, blocking PARP may help keep cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, causing them to die. PARP inhibitors are a type of targeted therapy. Also called poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor.
A rare, usually benign tumor that develops from cells of the paraganglia. Paraganglia are a collection of cells that came from embryonic nervous tissue, and are found near the adrenal glands and some blood vessels and nerves. Paragangliomas that develop in the adrenal gland are called pheochromocytomas. Those that develop outside of the adrenal glands near blood vessels or nerves are called glomus tumors or chemodectomas.
A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is taken up. Because cancer cells often take up more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. Also called positron emission tomography scan.
Tumor that forms in the center of the adrenal gland (gland located above the kidney) that causes it to make too much adrenaline. Pheochromocytomas are usually benign (not cancer) but can cause high blood pressure, pounding headaches, heart palpitations, flushing of the face, nausea, and vomiting.
Plasma-free metanephrines test:
A blood test that measures the amount of metanephrines in the blood. Metanephrines are substances that are made when the body breaks down adrenaline or noradrenaline. Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas can make large amounts of adrenaline and noradrenaline and cause high levels of metanephrines in both the blood and urine.
A molecular therapy (also called radioisotope therapy) used to treat a specific type of cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoma or NETs (neuroendocrine tumors). PRRT is also currently being investigated as a treatment for prostate and pancreatic tumors. Also called Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy.
The use of radiation (such as x-rays) or other imaging technologies (such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose or treat disease.
Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy:
A type of radionuclide scan that may be used to find tumors. A very small amount of radioactive octreotide (a hormone that attaches to tumors) is injected into a vein and travels through the blood. The radioactive octreotide attaches to the tumor and a special camera that detects radioactivity is used to show where the tumors are in the body. This procedure is also called octreotide scan and SRS.
A drug used to treat advanced renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer). It is also used as adjuvant therapy to treat renal cell carcinoma in patients who had surgery to remove the kidney and have a high risk that the cancer will come back. Sutent is also used to treat certain types of pancreatic cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) in some patients. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Sutent blocks certain proteins, which may help keep cancer cells from growing. It may also prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Sutent is a type of tyrosine kinase inhibitor and a type of angiogenesis inhibitor. Also called SU011248, SU11248, sunitinib, and sunitinib malate.
A rare inherited disorder in which blood vessels grow abnormally in the eyes, brain, spinal cord, adrenal glands, or other parts of the body. People with VHL syndrome have a higher risk of developing some types of cancer. Also called von Hippel-Lindau syndrome.
The website of the National Cancer Institute (https://www.cancer.gov), the website of the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org) and the website of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging www.snmmi.org .