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Overview of Pancreatic Endocrine Tumors

By Elliot M. Livstone, MD, Emeritus Staff, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota, FL

The pancreas is an organ located in the upper part of the abdomen. It produces digestive juices that are secreted into the digestive tract. The pancreas also produces insulin, which helps control blood sugar, and other hormones. Pancreatic endocrine tumors are tumors that arise from the types of pancreatic cells that produce hormones. These tumors may or may not secrete hormones themselves and may or may not be cancerous (malignant). There are two types of tumors:

  • Functioning

  • Nonfunctioning

Nonfunctioning tumors do not secrete hormones and are not cancerous. These tumors may cause symptoms by blocking the biliary tract or small intestine, by bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract, or by causing a mass in the abdomen.

Functioning tumors secrete large amounts of a particular hormone, causing various syndromes. Some functioning tumors are cancerous. The hormones that may be secreted and their tumor type include

Excess secretion of these hormones can also occur in a disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia.


  • Surgery

  • Drugs that block hormone effects

  • Sometimes chemotherapy

The treatment for both types of tumors is surgery.

People who are not candidates for surgery receive treatments that block the production or actions of hormones (such as octreotide) or are sometimes given chemotherapy.