Symptoms of gastrinoma

Gastrinoma is a type of neuroendocrine tumour (NET) that usually starts in the duodenum (small bowel) or pancreas. Its symptoms can be vague. See your GP if you are worried.

Symptoms of gastrinomas are often also caused by other medical conditions. Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer, but it is important to get them checked by a doctor.

Symptoms

Gastrinomas make large amounts of the hormone gastrin. Gastrin controls the amount of acid in your stomach, which helps to digest food. You usually have symptoms caused by the increase in the amount of stomach acid.

Pain in the tummy (abdomen)

This is usually caused by a stomach or duodenal ulcer. Between 70 and 100 out of every 100 people with gastrinoma (70 to 100%) have tummy pain.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea means having more than 3 watery poos (stools) in a 24 hour period. You might also have diarrhoea at night and problems controlling your bowels (incontinence).

Between 30 and 70 out of every 100 people with gastrinoma (30 to 70%) have diarrhoea. 

Indigestion (heartburn)

Heartburn is burning chest pain or discomfort after eating. It happens when acid from the stomach goes back up into the food pipe (oesophagus) or if the stomach is inflamed or irritated. 

Between 40 and 60 out of every 100 people with gastrinoma (40 to 60%) have symptoms of indigestion.

Bleeding

Gastrinomas can cause bleeding. You may not be able to see any blood if it’s a small amount. Or you may see blood in your vomit or poo. Over time, bleeding reduces the number of red blood cells in your blood (anaemia). 

Speak to your doctor if you see blood in your poo, or if your stools are back or sticky.

Between 40 and 70 out of every 100 people with gastrinoma (40 to 70%) have bleeding.

Feeling or being sick

You may feel or be sick. Between 10 and 30 out of every 100 people with gastrinoma (10 to 30%) have sickness.

Losing weight

You might lose a lot of weight (even if you’re not dieting). Between 7 and 50 out of every 100 people with gastrinoma (7 to 50%) lose weight.

Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES)

Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES) is the name given to the collection of symptoms caused by high levels of the hormone gastrin. ZES often causes: 

  • stomach or small bowel ulcers (peptic ulcer disease)
  • acid reflux (gastro oesophageal reflux or GOR for short)

When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you have any symptoms that are unusual for you, won’t go away, or are getting worse. Although your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer, it is important to get them checked by a doctor.
Last reviewed: 
09 Jul 2021
Next review due: 
09 Jul 2024
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