- Case report
- Open Access
Concurrent insulinoma and pancreatic adenocarcinoma: report of a rare case and review of the literature
© Athanasopoulos et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
- Received: 9 November 2010
- Accepted: 25 January 2011
- Published: 25 January 2011
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the 5th leading cause of cancer-related death in Western countries and insulinomas are rare endocrine neoplasms of the pancreas. The concurrent appearance of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and insulinoma is very rare and to the best of our knowledge has never been reported again. Herein, we present such an occurrence in a 74-year-old man. Resection of a mass in the uncinate process of the pancreas revealed pancreatic adenocarcinoma with severe desmoplastic reaction. Two years later, due to symptomatology persistence the patient was re-examined and a new 2cm mass in the uncinate process was found leading to surgery, which demonstrated a 2cm endocrine islet-cell tumor. Establishing a diagnosis in patients with insulinoma is difficult and the imaging studies still have low sensitivity and specificity except for intra-operative ultrasonography, which is the most accurate method detecting 90% of these lesions.
- Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma
- Endocrine Neoplasm
- Uncinate Process
Pancreatic endocrine neoplasms are rare tumours with a reported incidence of four cases per million patients per year . Of these tumours, insulinomas are the most common and typically are sporadic and solitary masses affecting individuals 30-60 years old, with equal distribution among genders . On the other hand, pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the 5th leading cause of cancer death in Western countries, and the second cause of cancer death among gastrointestinal tumors . An unusual occurrence of concomitant pancreatic adenocarcinoma and insulinoma in a 74-year-old man is presented herein.
A 74-year-old man was admitted to our hospital, suffering for the last 2 years from hypoglycaemic attacks. Laboratory tests showed fasting glucose level below 50mg/dl and symptoms of hypoglycaemia such as tachycardia, sweating, confusion and light-headedness. The correction of the above when glucose was administered was significant, so the Whipple's triad was present. Plasma-insulin level, measured through the extended 72-hours fasting test was found 12mIU/ml and C-peptide level was also elevated, 4.3ng/ml. Tumour markers were within normal range apart from Ca 19-9 which was 5IU/ml.
The main clinical symptom in insulinoma patients is the inability to suppress insulin secretion in the presence of hypoglycaemia, resulting in neuroglycopenia and adrenergic manifestations like headache, confusion, visual troubles, shivering, irritability and palpitations . However, establishing a diagnosis in patients with insulinoma is difficult and the imaging studies still have low sensitivity and specificity. The sensitivity of abdominal US is 50% whereas in contrast enhanced CT scan is 24%, in MRI scan is 40% and in scintigraphy using octreotide approaches 60%. Endoscopic US is the most accurate non-interventional imaging modality detecting 77% of the pancreatic insulinomas [6, 7]. However, intraoperative US is even more accurate detecting 90% of these lesions, which are usually smaller than 2cm in maximum diameter .
In our case, palpation of the lesion in the uncinate process during the first operation thought to be the mass, which had been demonstrated on the preoperative abdominal CT. Unfortunately, we missed the 1.5cm insulinoma and the resected area revealed a 1mm pancreatic adenocarcinoma with severe desmoplastic reaction in the surrounding tissue, which when palpated obviously misled us to believe that it corresponded to the insulinoma. The patient's symptoms pertained and serial CT scans revealed the 2cm insulinoma which was successfully treated with a Whipple's procedure.
Mixed pancreatic tumours, either collision or composite ones, from endocrine and exocrine cells have been reported in the literature , as well as the coexistence of insulinoma and gastrointestinal stromal tumours especially in patients with neurofibromatosis type I . However, the concurrence of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and insulinoma has never been reported before.
The coexistence of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and insulinoma is very rare and has never been reported before. Clinical symptoms should be evaluated carefully and since imaging modalities have low sensitivity and specificity in detecting small endocrine neoplasms, sequential imaging studies and intraoperative US can prove very helpful.
Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this case report and any accompanying images. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the Editor-in-Chief of this journal.
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