Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

Find a Pancreatic Cancer Specialist

Houston Methodist’s pancreatic cancer specialists use a team-based approach to diagnose and treat pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, a rare type of pancreatic cancer.


We provide advanced cancer care at seven locations across the Greater Houston area, allowing you or your loved one to receive treatment close to home or work.

Why Choose Houston Methodist for Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor Treatment

The benefits of choosing our pancreatic cancer care team include:

  • A team of surgeons, gastroenterologists, oncologists and radiation therapists that is highly skilled at diagnosing and treating this rarer type of tumor
  • Advanced diagnostics and treatment options, including minimally invasive procedures that speed up recovery
  • Oncology nurse navigators who guide you through your cancer care — from diagnosis through survivorship
  • Support through and beyond your recovery
  • Access to clinical trials offering potentially promising cancer treatments not available to the general public

About Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

What Causes Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors?

A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor occurs when the hormone-producing (neuroendocrine) cells of the pancreas grow out of control. This is a more rare type of pancreatic cancer.


Neuroendocrine tumors are typically slow-growing. They can also be functional or nonfunctional. Functional pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors make extra amounts of hormones, leading to signs and symptoms. They are typically diagnosed earlier than nonfunctioning neuroendocrine tumors, which cause few symptoms.


Although the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, several factors may increase the risk of developing it, including:

  • Chronic pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis)
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Increasing age

How Are Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors Diagnosed?

Nonfunctional neuroendocrine tumors typically don’t cause symptoms until they become large enough to cause pain, weight loss, appetite loss or jaundice.


Functional, hormone-producing neuroendocrine tumors, such as insulinomas, can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Incoherent thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate


If your doctor suspects a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, one or more of the following tests may be recommended:

  • Blood tests or urine tests to measure hormone levels or check for other molecules that signal cancer
  • Imaging tests, such as CT scan, MRI or PET scan
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Octreotide scan, a non-invasive test to look for neuroendocrine tumor cells

How Are Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors Treated?

Depending on the type and stage of the pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, your care team may use one or more of the following pancreatic cancer treatment options:

  • Surgery, including the Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy


Surgery is typically the primary treatment option for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. Unlike the more aggressive and common form of pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma), pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors often can be removed surgically.


If the tumor is small, removal sometimes can be performed laparoscopically, using only a few small incisions and minimally invasive surgical techniques. If the tumor is larger or if it's spread, surgery may still be used but the procedures are more complex.


Following surgery, some patients may require chemotherapy to kill tumor cells or medicine to control symptoms hormones produce.