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Pancreatic islet cell tumor

  • Alternative Names

    Islet cell tumors; Islet of Langerhans tumor; Neuroendocrine tumors


    Treatment will depend on the type of tumor and whether the tumor is noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Malignant tumors can spread to other organs, grow aggressively, and may not be treatable. Tumors are usually removed with surgery, if possible.

    If malignant cancer cells spread (metastasize) to the liver, a portion of the liver may also be removed, if possible. If the cancer is widespread, various forms of chemotherapy may be used to try and shrink the tumors.

    If the abnormal production of hormones is causing problems, you may receive medications to counteract their effects. For example, with gastrinomas, the overproduction of gastrin leads to too much acid in the stomach. Medications that block acid release can reduce symptoms.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    You may be cured if the tumors are surgically removed before they have spread to other organs. If tumors are cancerous, chemotherapy may be used, but it usually cannot cure patients.

    Life-threatening problems (such as very low blood sugar) can occur due to excess hormone production, or if the cancer spreads throughout the body.

    • Diabetes
    • Hormone crises (if the tumor releases certain types of hormones)
    • Severe low blood sugar (from insulinomas)
    • Severe ulcers in the stomach and small intestine (from gastrinomas)
    • Spread of the tumor to the liver

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of these tumors, especially if you have a family history of MEN I.