What is Gastrinoma?

Gastrinoma, also known as a “Zollinger-Ellison tumor,” is a type of rare, malignant neuroendocrine tumor that produces excessive levels of the hormone gastrin. Gastrin is one of the hormones that helps regulate the production of acid in the stomach and the secretion of enzymes involved in digestion. Gastrinomas may be found in the pancreas or in the small intestine and are often associated with other endocrine tumors, collectively known as “multiple endocrine neoplasia” (MEN).

Symptoms of Gastrinoma

People with gastrinoma often experience abdominal or chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Most people with gastrinomas eventually develop an ulcer in the stomach or small intestine, due to the increased acid secretion in the stomach. Other symptoms can include anemia, weight loss, jaundice, and anorexia.

Diagnosis of Gastrinoma

Diagnosing a gastrinoma typically requires imaging studies of the abdomen and pelvis, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This can help to identify any abnormalities that may suggest the presence of a tumor. The doctor may also order blood tests to measure levels of gastrin in the blood. If elevated levels of gastrin are found, further testing may be done to determine the location of the tumor.

Treatment of Gastrinoma

Treatment of gastrinoma typically involves a combination of surgical removal of the tumor and medications to reduce the production of gastrin. Surgery is the primary treatment for gastrinoma; however, not all tumors may be completely removed. In cases where the tumor cannot be completely removed, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be used in addition to surgery. Medications such as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) may also be used to reduce the production of stomach acid.

Prevention of Gastrinoma

There is no known way to prevent the development of gastrinoma. However, people who have a family history of MEN should be aware of the possible risks, so that any symptoms related to the condition can be caught and treated early. Regular cancer screenings and check-ups are also important in identifying and managing any early signs of the disease.

Complications of Gastrinoma

Gastrinoma can lead to complications, such as:

  • ulcers
  • feeling of fullness
  • diarrhea
  • bleeding from the digestive tract
  • weight loss
  • anemia
  • jaundice
  • malnutrition

If left untreated, gastrinoma can be life-threatening.