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Pancreatic Cancer Health Center

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Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs)


Because nonfunctional NETs often don't cause symptoms until they become large or spread, doctors usually find them at a later stage.

You may have:

  • Diarrhea
  • An uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating
  • A lump in your belly
  • Pain in your belly or back
  • Yellowish skin or eyes

The symptoms of a functional NET depend on the kind of hormone it makes. You might feel:

  • Tired
  • Nervous or anxious
  • Confused
  • Shaky, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • Thirsty
  • More or less hungry than usual

You could have:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Diarrhea
  • A need to go to the bathroom more or less
  • Pain in a specific place that won't go away
  • Reflux, a backup of stomach acid into your throat
  • A cough
  • A headache
  • Trouble seeing
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Sweating a lot
  • A raised, red rash on your lower leg, around your mouth, or anywhere your skin rubs together

Getting a Diagnosis

Before you have any tests, your doctor will want to know:

  • How have you been feeling?
  • When did you first notice changes?
  • Do you have pain? Where?
  • How is your appetite?
  • Have you been thirsty?
  • Have you lost any weight?
  • Have you noticed any skin rashes?
  • Are you more tired than usual? When did this start?
  • Do you have any medical conditions?
  • Do you take any medications?
  • Does anyone in your family have an endocrine disorder? What type?
  • Do any illnesses run in your family?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and test for a tumor.

X-rays use radiation in low doses to make pictures of the inside of your body.

Blood and urine tests look at hormone and sugar levels.

CT scans, or computed tomography, are special X-rays that make detailed pictures of your insides.

MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging, use powerful magnets and radio waves to make pictures of organs and structures inside your body.

If your doctor finds a tumor, you may need more tests to figure out its size, how far it has spread, and what type it is.

Endoscopic ultrasound. A doctor puts a thin, flexible tube down your throat or into your rectum to see inside your body. A small device on the end sends out high-energy sound waves that can create an image of your organs.

Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy. The doctor gives you a small injection of a radioactive hormone. It attaches to the tumor, which helps the doctor see how large it is.

Biopsy. Usually, the doctor uses a needle to take a sample of tissue from your pancreas. Sometimes, he'll make a small cut instead. Then he'll check the cells under a microscope.

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