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Islet cell cancer – causes, side effects and treatments at

Monday, May 07, 2018 by

Islet cell cancer is a rare but treatable type of cancer of the pancreas. It begins in the cells of the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin and other hormones. Islet cell cancer triggers the pancreas to produce excessive amounts of such hormones, and the individual may feel weak or dizzy and may have chills, muscle spasms, and diarrhea with stomach pains.

Known symptoms and risk factors for islet cell cancer

Since the islet cell cancer is very rare, the only known risk factor for developing such a tumor is having a disease called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome (MEN1) or having a family history of the said syndrome.

MEN1 is an inheritable disease that causes one or more endocrine glands to be overactive or to grow a tumor. The endocrine glands affected by MEN1 include the pancreas, parathyroid, and pituitary gland.

The symptoms depend on which hormone is made by the tumor. For instance, insulinomas produce insulin, which lowers blood sugar level. Excessive amounts of this hormone may trigger the following symptoms:

  • Double or blurry vision
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Feeling uneasy
  • Headache
  • Hunger
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Shaking or sweating
  • Unclear thinking

Low blood sugar levels may lead to fainting, having a seizure, or even going into a coma.

Gastrinomas make the hormone gastrin, which tells the body to make stomach acid. Specific symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcers in the stomach and small bowel
  • Vomiting blood (occasionally)

Glucagonomas make the hormone glucagon, which helps the body raise blood sugar level. Symptoms may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Frequent urination and thirst
  • Red, blistery rash in the groin or buttocks
  • Weight loss

Body systems harmed by islet cell cancer

The following complications may occur as the cancer progresses:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diabetes (if the tumor destroys enough islet cells of the pancreas)
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Hypoglycemic shock due to increased insulin secretion
  • Jaundice
  • Metastases to the liver and lymph nodes
  • Recurrence of islet cell cancer following treatment
  • Side effects from the chemotherapy (such as toxicity) and radiation therapy
  • Weight loss

Food items or nutrients that may prevent islet cell cancer

There are many vitamins, herbs and supplements that may help treat pancreatic cancer. Vitamins B3 and B5, for instance, are important for fat and carbohydrate metabolism, while vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin E helps with tissue repair.

In addition, there are herbs that may help with pancreatic cancer, which include milk thistle, red clover, burdock root, dandelion root, olive leaf, garlic and licorice. Other foods that are good for healing are:

  • Blueberry
  • Coconut oil
  • Ginseng
  • Red grapes
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Turmeric
  • Yogurt

Treatments, management plans for islet cell cancer

Take care of your pancreas with the following tips:

  • Limit alcohol consumption – By drinking less or not at all, you can help protect your pancreas from the toxic effects of alcohol and reduce your risk for pancreatic cancer.
  • Eat a low-fat diet – Gallstones, a leading cause of acute pancreatitis, can develop when too much cholesterol accumulates in your bile, the substance made by your liver to help digest fats. It’s also important to limit foods high in simple sugars, such as sugary sweets and high-calorie beverages, that could raise your triglyceride levels; high triglyceride levels, or the amount of fats carried in your blood, can increase your risk for pancreatic cancer.
  • Exercise regularly – Overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk of developing gallstones, which are risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Losing weight properly (avoiding crash diets) is a steady way to prevent islet cell cancer and other illnesses.
  • Don’t smoke – Smoking has been linked to numerous illnesses and many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.

Where to learn more


Islet cell cancer is a rare but treatable pancreatic cancer. It begins in the cells of the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin and other hormones.

Islet cell cancer triggers the excessive production of these hormones, which creates numerous adverse symptoms, depending on the type of hormone it produces.

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