What is a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor?
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) are formed in the hormone-making (islet) cells of the pancreas. Most are nonfunctional, which means they do not cause symptoms. Some PNETs secrete hormones and are referred to as functional PNETs. These hormones can cause low blood sugar, diarrhea, indigestion, and abdominal pain. Functional PNET types include insulinoma, gastrinoma, and glucagonoma, among others. PNETs can also cause yellowing of skin and whites of eyes (jaundice) and may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). They are much less common than pancreatic exocrine tumors (pancreatic adenocarcinoma) and have a much better prognosis. PNETs are detected using lab tests and imaging, and are often discovered by accident during testing for something else.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a PNET, it can be unclear where to turn for help. We offer:
- timely appointments
- an individualized treatment plan
- collaboration with a multidisciplinary team
Our clinic is best suited for those who have a PNET isolated to the pancreas or located in the pancreas and liver. PNETs that are found in both the pancreas and liver are referred to as metastatic PNETs.
Treatment for PNETs may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, hepatic arterial chemoembolization, radioembolization, peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, and/or supportive care. As part of our program, you will see an expert surgeon who specializes in pancreas and liver surgery. We have extensive experience in minimally invasive surgery. We consult with our medical oncology and gastroenterology colleagues as needed.
In advance of your visit, we will require records of prior medical care for review.
If you have a gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumor located somewhere other than the pancreas — for example, the small bowel — we will be happy to see you in one of our other surgery clinics.
Lara EspinPhysician Assistant Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland