Pancreatic Endocrine Diseases (Neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors):
The pancreas is an oblong gland about six to eight inches in length, which lies beneath the stomach. The pancreas has two separate functions: the exocrine portion (about 80 percent of the gland), which secretes enzymes important for the digestion of food, and the endocrine portion, which secretes several hormones including insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, pancreatic polypeptide, and others.
Pancreatic Endocrine Tumors: Any of the cells that secrete hormones may be transformed into a tumor, which oversecretes the hormone. The tumors are named based on the hormone they produce, such as glucagonoma, insulinoma, gastrinoma, and somatostatinoma. These tumors can produce a wide range of symptoms related to the excessive hormone production. Endocrine pancreatic tumors may also be non-functioning. Occasionally, these tumors are inherited with other tumors in the Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) type 1 syndrome. Most pancreatic endocrine tumors require surgical resection. Not all neuroendocrine tumors are malignant.
Pancreatic Cancer (Adenocarcinoma): Pancreatic cancer is more common than the neuroendocrine tumors, and arises from the exocrine portion of the pancreas. This is a different entity than the pancreatic endocrine tumors and carries a worse prognosis. Its treatment often involves surgery and chemo-radiation.