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Symptoms

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

VIPomas usually make large amounts of a hormone called vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). VIP relaxes the muscles in the stomach and bowel. It also helps to control the balance of sugar, salt and water in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

You usually have symptoms caused by the increase in the amount of VIP in your body. Symptoms include loose or water poo (diarrhoea) which can be severe. 

These symptoms could be due to VIPoma, but they can also be caused by more common medical conditions. It’s important to get them checked by a doctor.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually develop slowly. In most people, the tumour has already started to spread to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed. Symptoms might include:

Diarrhoea

You might have large amounts of watery poo (stools). Some people need to go to the toilet more than 20 times a day. You can have diarrhoea even when you haven’t eaten beforehand (fasting).

Between 9 and 10 out of every 10 people (90 and 100%) have diarrhoea.

Dehydration

Dehydration can cause:

  • thirst
  • dry skin
  • a dry mouth
  • tiredness
  • headaches and dizziness

More than 8 out of every 10 people (more than 80%) have dehydration.

A low level of potassium in your blood

This can cause numbness and heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat. Between 8 and 10 out of every 10 people (between 80 and 100%) have low levels of potassium.

Weigh loss

You might lose weight even if you haven't changed your diet.

Flushing of the skin

The skin of your face, neck and chest may look red (flushed).

This happens in around 2 out of every 10 people (20%). 

Tummy (abdominal) pain

Tummy pain is usually mild.

Verner Morrison syndrome

Verner Morrison syndrome is the name given to the collection of symptoms caused by having high levels of the hormone VIP. It’s also called:

  • VIPoma syndrome
  • pancreatic cholera
  • watery diarrhoea, hypokalaemia and hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria syndrome (WDHA)

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: 
18 Jun 2019
  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2015

  • ENETS consensus guidelines for the management of patients with digestive neuroendocrine neoplasms: functional pancreatic endocrine tumor syndromes
    R Jensen and others
    Neuroendocrinology, 2012. Vol 95, Pages 98-119

  • Pancreatic Endocrine Tumors
    Kjell Oberg
    Seminars in Oncology, 2010. Vol 37, Issue 6, Pages 594-618

  • Neuroendocrine Tumours: Diagnosis and Management
    Suayib Yalcin and Kjell Oberg
    Springer, 2015

  • VIPoma: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management
    Emily Bergsland
    UpToDate, accessed May 2018

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