What is a carotid body tumor?
A carotid body tumor (also called a chemodectoma or paraganglioma) is a growth on the side of your neck in the area where the carotid artery splits off into smaller blood vessels that carry blood to your brain. You have two carotid arteries ─ one on each side of your neck ─ that supply blood to the front of the brain, which is responsible for thinking, speech, personality, and sensory and motor functions.
Many times, a carotid body tumor does not cause symptoms and is found by your doctor during an exam. You may be able to feel the tumor, but it is not painful.
If the tumor becomes large, it can press on the nerves, blood vessels or organs around it. This may cause throat pain, hoarseness, a numb tongue or make it hard to swallow.
Your doctor will closely examine your head and neck to check for signs of a carotid body tumor. You may need tests, such as:
Ultrasound – a test that uses a special tool (transducer/wand) that sends sound waves inside your body to create pictures.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – a test that uses a large magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
Computed Tomography (CT scan) – a special type of X-ray.
Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) – an MRI that checks for problems with your blood vessels.
Specialised blood tests are requested in some conditions as carotid body tumors can occasionally be associated with some other rare conditions.