Insulinoma Awareness Month & Ribbon
Month September
Ribbon Purple Color

An insulinoma is a pancreatic tumor. This rare type of tumor secretes hormone insulin reacting to increase in blood glucose. Most of these tumors are not cancerous and they occur as small and single tumor in adults.

Signs and Symptoms of insulinoma

Secretion of excess hormone by this tumor often causes low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. It shows symptoms such as:

  • Confusion or forgetfulness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Unconsciousness
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Tremor
  • Weight gain

When tumor grows large, it spreads to other areas in the body. Symptoms in these cases shown are:

  • Pain in abdomen
  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice

It is advisable to consult with your doctor immediately if you are experiencing these above symptoms.

Causes of insulinoma

The cause of insulinoma is not yet known. As per normal process, whenever a person eats, the pancreas produces insulin. The insulin facilitates utilization and store the sugar energy (glucose) from the food. When the glucose is absorbed, the pancreas holds back on insulin. This course of action maintains a stable blood sugar level.

However, if a person has insulinoma, the tumor produces insulin continuously even when blood sugar level goes down.

Tests and Procedures to detect insulinoma

Your doctor may suggest you for a blood test to diagnose insulinoma. If blood glucose level is low and insulin is high then it is a symptom of insulinoma. After getting this result the doctor may also advise to go for tests such as:

  • Proteins that obstruct the creation of insulin
  • Drugs that make the pancreas to discharge more insulin
  • Other hormones affecting production of insulin

If the laboratory test of above things become positive, you may have to do 72 hour fasting. This condition is said to be the “gold standard” diagnosis of insulinoma. During these 72 hours, the patient is allowed to consume only calorie-free drinks and the doctor suggests to measure blood glucose once in every six hours.

Additional imaging tests to locate the tumor may be recommended such as CT scan, MRI scan. If the tumor is not found during imaging tests an endoscopic ultrasound may be conducted. The biopsy needle can also be attached to the endoscope to remove sample from affected area. The sample afterward is tested under microscope to know whether the tumor is cancerous or not.

Treatment of insulinoma

Best treatment of insulinoma is removal of the tumor by surgery. There are different types of surgeries available for insulinoma. Depending on the location and size of the tumor the type of surgery is decided.

Other treatments recommended for insulinoma are chemotherapy, radiofrequency ablation and cryotherapy. Radio waves kill cancerous cells in ablation and malignant cells are destroyed by freezing in case of cryotherapy.

Treatment Cost

You may have to pay approximately $1500 towards treatment of insulinoma. However, the amount is different in different places. Also it depends on the standard of health care system you have adopted.

Preventive Measures of insulinoma

As the cause of insulinoma is not yet known, so there is no sure approach to prevent it. However, one can lessen the risk of insulinoma by following a hale and hearty diet. Regular exercise, eating less red meat and giving up smoking habit helps a lot in preventing any type of cancer including insulinoma.

Side Effects of various treatment methods of insulinoma

You may experience a number of side effects after treatment of insulinoma. Some major side effects are listed below:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infections
  • Rise in blood sugar level
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Ankle swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive growth of body hair

Most of these side effects are temporary. Consult with the doctor to overcome the situation.