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Doctor Wachtel Business Attire
Dr. Heather Wachtel, Surgeon
Your adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system and are found just above your kidneys. They produce adrenaline, aldosterone and cortisol, which are hormones that regulate different bodily functions.

Adrenal disorders can range from noncancerous tumors (adenomas) to adrenal cancers. Regardless of whether the tumor is cancerous, we often recommend surgically removing it.

How We Treat Adrenal Tumors

At Penn Medicine, our adrenal surgeons perform a high volume of adrenal surgeries, so if your adrenal disorder requires complex care, chances are we have seen it — and treated it — before.

The Neuroendocrine Tumor Center includes a team of surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, interventional radiologists and geneticists who are experts in adrenal tumors, many of which are extremely rare.

All of us meet bi-weekly to discuss each individual patient and form a consensus about more difficult cases. In addition, we take the time to present research, discuss new publications and analyze data, so the entire team is always on the forefront of cancer care. This allows us to take a holistic approach to diagnosis, treatment, surgical management and follow-up care.

Types of Adrenal Tumors

There are several different types of adrenal tumors. Some are cancerous and others noncancerous, while some make hormones and others do not.

You can have both hormone-creating (functional) and non-hormone-creating (nonfunctional) tumors that are cancerous, as well as non-functional tumors that are benign (adenomas).

Our Interventional Radiology program is one of the foremost centers in the country for adrenal sampling. This helps us identify patients who would benefit from a surgery and also to exclude patients from getting an unnecessary surgery.

We treat more patients than almost any other center in the United States for the following adrenal tumors:

  • Hyperaldosteronism, which are aldosterone-secreting tumors of the adrenal glands. Aldosterone helps balance sodium and potassium levels in your blood.
  • Pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma, which are rare catecholamine-secreting tumors of the adrenal gland. Catecholamines can be neurotransmitters, which transmit signals through your nervous system, or hormones, which transmit signals from your blood to your organs and tissues. Three of the most well known catecholamines are epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine.

In addition to hyperaldosteronism, pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma, we also have a lot of experience treating adenoma, adrenocortical carcinoma (very rare) and neuroblastoma.

In This Section

Types of Adrenal Surgeries

If surgery is a treatment option for your adrenal tumor, we will determine whether laparoscopic adrenalectomy, retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy or open adrenalectomy is right for you based your specific needs.

Adrenal Surgery Process

Learn how to prepare for your adrenalectomy and what recovery may look like.

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