Glucagonoma (patient information)
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Glucagonoma is a very rare tumor of the islet cells of the pancreas which is an organ in the abdomen that can make insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar level. A patient of insulinoma can produce too much glucagon. Patients may show a series of symptoms of hyperglucagonemia and hypoaminoacidemia, such as anemia, diarrhea, weight loss, necrolytic migratory erythema and Diabetes Mellitus. Treatments invlove surgery and medication.
What are the symptoms of Glucagonoma?
Usual symptoms of glucagonoma invlove a series of signs of hyperglucagonemia and hypoaminoacidemia:
- Excess thirst
- Increased appetite
- Inflamed mouth and tongue
- Skin rash
Other health problems may also cause these symptoms. Only a doctor can tell for sure. A person with any of these symptoms should tell the doctor so that the problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Who is at highest risk?
The cause of insulinoma is not clear.
- Fasting glucose level and serum glucagon level: In patients with glucagonoma, the level of fasting glucose level and serum glucagon level are great higer than normal.
- Skin biopsy: Skin biopsy is a good test for skin lesions. Pathologists may find necrolytic migratory erythema in patients with glucagonoma.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT scans are often used to diagnose glucagonoma. It can confirm the location of the tumor and show the organs nearby. These are helpful for determining the stage of the cancer and in determining whether surgery is a good treatment option.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses magnetic fields but it is a different type of image than what is produced by computed tomography (CT) and produces detailed images of the body. Like computed tomography (CT), a contrast agent may be injected into a patient’s vein to create a better picture.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: When doing this test, a small amount of a radioactive medium is injected into your body and absorbed by the organs or tissues. This radioactive substance gives off energy which in turn is used to produce the images. PET can provide more helpful information than either CT or MRI scans. It is useful to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and it is also useful for your doctor to locate where the cancer has spread.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your health care provider if symptoms of glucagonoma develop. If you experience either of the following symptoms, seeking urgent medical care as soon as possible:
- Severe diarrhea
For patients with glucagonoma, surgery is the definitive management. Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities.
- Surgery: The surgical measure may involve surgical removal of the glucagonoma. It is the first preferred treatment for the patients.
- Medication: For patients who may not accept surgery, medications such as octreotide, doxorubicin and streptozotocin can be used to block the release of glycagon.
Diseases with similar symptoms
- Chronic eczema
- Severe infection
Where to find medical care for Glucagonoma?
Prevention of Glucagonoma
For the cause is not clear, there is no known method for prevention.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
For approximately 60% of these tumors are cancerous, the prognosis of glucagonoma depends on the following:
- Whether or not the tumor can be removed by surgery
- The stage of the tumor: the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread outside the pancreas
- The patient’s general
- Whether the tumor has just been diagnosed or has recurred
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