Are insulinomas malignant?

Yes, insulinomas are malignant. Insulinomas are a type of neoplasm (cancer) that overproduces insulin, but not every insulinoma produces insulin. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) related to the cancer is a result of these tumors driving glucose into cells.
In some cases, surgical resection can result in a complete remission of the cancer. Very rarely they can metastasize to different locations. The origin of this primary malignancy is in the pancreas.
Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

Insulinomas are a form of pancreatic islet cell or neuroendocrine tumor. They essentially are insulin producing tumors. They can be part of a familial sydrome or sporadic. The majority of the time they are benign, however in approximately 10% of cases they can be malignant.

Treatment is usually sought because they are "functional" and it can lead to quality of life compromise.

Insulinomas are malignant in less than 10% of patients. The prognosis for patients with malignant insulinoma is far better than for patients with the more common exocrine pancreatic cancer. Not only does the tumor secrete insulin, so do any sites of spread of the cancer. An aggressive surgical approach to the tumor and the metastases (spread of cancer in other parts of the body; with insulinoma typically to the liver and lymph nodes) is usually recommended. Chemotherapy and other specialized forms of treatment may be necessary for these patients.

Continue Learning about Endocrine System

Endocrine System

Your endocrine system works with your nervous system to control important bodily functions. The endocrine systems responsibilities include regulating growth, sexual development and function, metabolism and mood. The endocrine syst...

em also helps give your body the energy it needs to function properly. Endocrine glands secrete hormones into the bloodstream. Hormones are considered chemical messengers, coordinating your body by transferring information from one set of cells to another. Your endocrine system health can be affected by hormone imbalances resulting from impaired glands. A hormone imbalance can cause problems with bodily growth, sexual development, metabolism and other bodily functions. Endocrine system diseases or conditions include diabetes, growth disorders and osteoporosis.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.