VIPomas are rare cancers that start in the neuroendocrine cells that make the hormone VIP. VIP stands for vasoactive intestinal peptide. It relaxes the muscles in the stomach and bowel, and helps to control the balance of sugar, salt and water in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Around 9 out of every 10 VIPomas (90%) start in the pancreas. More rarely, VIPomas can start in the:
- adrenal glands
The pancreas is part of our digestive system.
The pancreas is quite high up in the tummy (abdomen). It lies across your body where the ribs meet at the bottom of the breastbone, just behind your stomach. It is about 6 inches (15 centimeters) and shaped like a leaf.
The pancreas has 3 parts:
- the wide part is the head
- the thin end is the tail
- the part in the middle is the body
The pancreatic duct is a tube that collects the digestive juices made by the pancreas and carries them into the first part of the bowel (duodenum).
How common it is
VIPomas are very rare. Only around 1 person in every 10 million develop a VIPoma every year.
Around 2 out of every 100 pancreatic NETs (2%) diagnosed every year are VIPomas.
Cancer or non cancer?
All VIPomas are cancers. VIPomas often grow slowly and are diagnosed early. But some people are diagnosed when their cancer has already spread to other parts of the body (secondary tumours or metastases).
The most common places where VIPomas spread to is the liver and lymph nodes.