About the treatment

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Treating Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors form in hormone-making cells (islet cells) of the pancreas.

The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

There are two kinds of cells in the pancreas:

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) may be benign (not cancer) or malignant(cancer). When pancreatic NETs are malignant, they are called pancreatic endocrine canceror islet cell carcinoma.

For people with poorly differentiated tumors (neuroendocrine carcinomas), chemotherapy is typically the first treatment. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy tumor cells, usually by stopping those cells’ ability to grow and divide. Chemotherapy is given by a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating a tumor with medication.

Systemic chemotherapy gets into the bloodstream to reach tumor cells throughout the body. Common ways to give chemotherapy include an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle or in a pill or capsule that is swallowed (orally).

A chemotherapy regimen usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. A patient may receive 1 drug at a time or combinations of different drugs at the same time. There are many clinical trials underway to study new drugs for neuroendocrine tumors.

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the individual and the dose used, but they can include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

 

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