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Insulinomas involve beta cells in ferret pancreas that develop into tumors, and are unfortunately quite common in ferrets 2-4 years old and over. This tumor causes excess insulin production. High insulin levels cause low blood sugar levels. They usually occur as a single small tumor in adults. They are very rare in children. Most children with hyperinsulinism have multiple areas of overactive insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas, rather than a single tumor. Most benign insulinomas, only 5 to 10 percent are cancer.

What are the symptoms of insulinoma?

People with a genetic syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia Type I (MEN I) are at risk of developing insulinomas. The typical symptoms that patients complain of are associated with the development of low blood sugar and include fatigue, weakness, tremulous and hunger. Low levels of sugar in the blood can even lead to loss of consciousness, seizures and coma. Differentiation is the normal treatment for insulinomas. Surgical removal of the tumor is the treatment of choice. More than 90% of patients will not require further treatment after tumor removal. The tumor may be solitary or multiple.

Solitary tumors are removed, but patients with multiple tumors usually require removal of part of the pancreas. Octreotide is used to suppress insulin secretion in some patients. Medicines are also used to relieve patients before surgery. Drugs such as diazoxide and somatostatin can be used to block insulin release for patients who are not surgical candidates or who otherwise have inoperable tumors. Streptozotocin is used in islet cell carcinoma which produces excessive insulin. Prednisone is usually the first drug used, with a typical dosage range of 0.5 – 2.5 mg / kg twice daily.

What is Insulinoma?

High-dose proton pump inhibitors may be effective for reducing acid levels and temporarily relieving symptoms. If no tumor can be found, or if the patient is not a candidate for surgery, the drug diazoxide may be given to decrease insulin secretion and avoid hypoglycemia. If the cancer tumor has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy can help reduce the number of tumor cells and the level of gastrin in the blood. However, such therapy does not cure cancer, which is ultimately fatal. Exercise can worsen hypoglycemia in patients with insulinomas.