An insulinoma is a rare neuroendocrine tumor.

An insulinoma is a tumor of the pancreas that produces excessive amounts of the hormone insulin. These type of tumors are developed by the beta cells, located in the pancreas. Insulin-secreting tumors are still capable of synthesizing and again secreting insulin. Medical statistics reveal that about 99% of all tumors that have been diagnosed, seem to originate within the pancreas of the individual.

There are rear cases though, where insulinomas are developed from the ectopic pancreatic tissues. Recorded facts also reveal that about 5% of these diagnosed cases, are some how linked or associated with tumors of the porathyoid and pituitary glands. Most of the time an individual can have multiple tumors that are often malignant. The size of insulin-secreting tumors are often less than 2 cm when they are originally diagnosed.

Symptoms that are associated with an insulinoma!

Individuals that are diagnosed with insulinomas, usually develop some form of neuroglycopenic symptoms. These symptom indicators normally include:

  • Recurrent headaches.
  • Lethargy.
  • Diplopia.
  • Blurred vision. This mainly occurs when individuals are exercising or fasting.

Diagnosis for an insulinoma!

In order for your doctor to diagnosed you as having true hypoglycemia, the circumstances that are associated with Whipple's triad have to be present. These conditions include:

  • Hypoglycemia symptoms or signals.
  • An accompanying plasma glucose level that is 45 mg/dl or less.
  • Reverse of the symptoms whenever you administer a blood glucose treatment.

If you show signs of symptomatic fasting hypoglycemia, your doctor may recommend that you get check for insulin-secreting tumors.

Blood tests that are used for diagnosing insulin-secreting tumors!

When checking you for insulin-secreting tumors, there are several blood tests that your physician will have you do. These blood tests are directly linked with the diagnosis of these tumors which include:

  • A blood glucose level test.
  • An insulin level test.
  • A C-peptide test.
  • A pro insulin level test. This is providing that there is an availability for it. There is also a strong possibility that your doctor will carry out other blood test, so that he/she can eliminate any other possible causes for your hypoglycemia condition.

Other tests used for diagnosing insulin-secreting tumors!

Besides the blood tests listed above being used for diagnosing an insulin-secreting tumor, there are other tests that your doctor may have you do. One of these tests is called a suppression test. This particular test is usually done in a supervised hospital setting, after you have gone through a 72 hours fast.

Suppression tests are done to see if your insulin levels fail to suppress. If it does, it is a strong indication that you may have an insulinoma. Diagnosing an insulin-secreting tumor can also be done through another test called a diagnostic imaging. There are times when insulin-secreting tumors can be localized using non-invasive means.

This can be accomplished using one of three methods which include:

  • An ultrasound.
  • A CT-scan.
  • MRI techniques.

Sometimes your health care provider, may be required to do an angiography. This involves the use of a percutaneous transhepatic pancreatic vein catheterization, to sample your blood for your insulin level. With a diagnostic imaging test, calcium can be injected into specific arteries.

This type of injection will stimulate the release of insulin from various parts of the pancreas. Using calcium stimulation will improve the specificity of the imaging test. When an individual requires surgery to remove an insulin secreting tumor, an intra-operative ultrasound can be of great assistance to the surgeon.

Treatment for an insulinoma!

Managing an insulin-secreting tumor is usually done through surgery to remove it. This can also involve removing a portion of your pancreas as well. This medical procedure is commonly referred to as the Whipple procedure and distal pancretectomy. However some individuals may have tumors that are inoperable.

Whenever doctors are face with this type of situation, they usually prescribe medications that can block the release of the insulin hormone. These prescription medications are drugs such as diazoxide and somatostatin. Most individuals that have been diagnosed with a benign tumor, are usually cured through surgery. Still there is a good chance that they can experience recurrent episodes of hypoglycemia after your surgery.

This is usually the case when these individuals are diagnosed with multiple insulinomas. Sadly for some individuals, there is a 2% chance that they will develop diabetes mellitus after their surgery. Hypoglycemia that is caused by excessive insulin production, is the most common type of them all. It is very serious which means that it can become life threatening if it goes untreated.

As I have indicated earlier, most insulin-secreting tumors turn out to be benign but there are about 5 to 10 percent of them that do become cancerous. People that have the genetic syndrome condition called endocrine neoplasia type 1, are the ones who are at higher risks of developing an insulinoma.

Insulinoma can lead to diabetes mellitus!

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