Symptoms and Signs of Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Islet Cell Tumors)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/1/2021

Doctor's Notes on Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Islet Cell Tumors)

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors occur when the hormone-making cells (islet cells) of the pancreas start to grow abnormally. The endocrine pancreas cells (also called islet cells or islets of Langerhans) that make several different hormones, such as insulin to control blood sugar. These cells cluster together in small groups (islets) throughout the pancreas. Tumors that form in islet cells are called islet cell tumors, pancreatic endocrine tumors, or pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pancreatic NETs). 

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors occur, they may include:

What Is the Treatment for Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors?

There are many types of treatment for pancreatic NET, and the approach is tailored to each individual. Treatment options include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
  • Hormone therapy to block growth of hormone-sensitive tumors
  • Hepatic arterial occlusion or chemoembolization to stop the growth of tumors in the liver
  • Targeted therapy, a newer type of drug therapy that is directed at cells harboring specific cellular changes
  • Supportive care to control symptoms


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.