According to the American Cancer Society, some of the signs and symptoms of a pancreatic tumour can be similar to how we react to heat. Called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, they start in neuroendocrine cells, which is a kind of cell found in the pancreas – although they can also be found in other areas of the body. These cells in the pancreas are found in small clusters called islets that make important hormones like insulin, and release them directly into the blood.
“Too much insulin leads to low blood sugar, which can cause symptoms like weakness, confusion, sweating, and rapid heartbeat.
“When blood sugar gets very low, it can lead to a person passing out or even going into a coma and having seizures.”
The organisation recommends seeking advice from a doctor if you have concerns about these symptoms.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours can also lead to a range of other conditions, as explained by the society.
Too much gastrin causes a condition known as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, in which the stomach makes too much acid.
This leads to stomach ulcers, which can cause pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. Severe ulcers can bleed.
If the stomach acid reaches the small intestine, it can damage the cells of the intestinal lining and break down digestive enzymes before they have a chance to digest food causing diarrhoea and weight loss.
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These tumours make a substance called vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). Too much VIP can lead to problems with diarrhoea. This may be mild at first, but gets worse over time. By the time they are diagnosed, most people have severe, watery diarrhoea.
Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, feeling weak or tired, and flushing (redness and warmth in the face or neck).
People with these tumours also tend to have low levels of acid in their stomachs, which can lead to problems digesting food.