The pancreas is an organ responsible for helping
the body digest food and regulate sugar. Tumors of the pancreas can develop
from the organ’s exocrine cells, which make enzymes to aid in digestion, or
endocrine cells, which produce hormones such as insulin and glucagon that
control blood sugar levels.
Several different types of pancreatic
tumors can develop in children, such as solid pseudopapillary tumors (SPTs), pancreatoblastomas,
and neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). NETs in the pancreas, also known as islet
cell tumors, include insulinomas, glucagonomas, gastrinomas, VIPomas,
somatostatinomas, and nonfunctioning tumors. Although pancreatic tumors are
rare in children, some kinds, such as NETs, occur more commonly in children
with certain inherited or genetic conditions. SPTs are most often seen in girls
and young women.
Pancreatic Tumor Treatment at
Children with tumors of the pancreas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston
Children's through our Endocrine-Oncology Program. Our integrated pediatric
oncology service offers—in one specialized program—the combined expertise of a
leading cancer center and a premier children’s hospital. We build a team to
treat your child consisting of oncologists, endocrinologists, genetic
counselors, and surgeons.
Continue reading for more information about tumors of the pancreas or visit
Program page to learn more about our expertise or meet our treatment
is complete, your child’s team will likely determine the tumor’s stage or
classification, a way of describing where the tumor is located and whether it
The type of
pancreatic tumor your child has will help determine his prognosis and
treatment. Types of tumors of the pancreas include:
As a parent,
you undoubtedly want to know what may have caused your child’s tumor. It is important to understand that often tumors
emerge with no known cause. Many result from a mingling of genetic and
environmental factors. In some cases, inherited conditions are linked to the
development of pancreatic tumors, as is the case with von Hippel Lindau
syndrome and multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes.
The symptoms of pancreatic tumors may vary from child to
child and depend on where the tumor is located and whether it produces hormones.
Symptoms might mimic other, more common ailments. Some of the most
common symptoms include:
many of these symptoms can also point to other conditions, it’s important to
have your child evaluated by a qualified medical professional right away.
The first step in treating your child is forming an
accurate and complete diagnosis. Your child’s physician may order a number of
different tests including:
There may be other diagnostic tests that your
doctor will discuss with you depending on your child's individual situation.
After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss
what they have learned about your child's condition. Then, we will meet with
you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best possible
your child's pancreatic tumor will depend on the type and location of the
tumor. Your child's doctor may recommend:
Children who are treated through our Endocrine-Oncology Program benefit from
the work of our basic and clinical researchers, who are striving to understand
the scientific causes of endocrine cancers. Their work can result in the
introduction of new treatment options. We are a world leader in translational
research, bringing laboratory advances to the bedside and into doctors’ offices
as quickly as possible.
trials, or research studies evaluating new treatment approaches, are a major
offering at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. For many children with rare or
hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.
that your child will be eligible to participate in one of our clinical trials.
In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also offer trials
available through collaborative groups such as the Children's
Oncology Group (COG). If your child
has a progressive or recurrent tumor, she may be eligible for a number of
experimental therapies available through these groups or from one of our
independent clinical investigators.
Your child’s prognosis will depend on the type of
tumor he or she has, the specific location of the tumor in the pancreas,
whether it is benign or malignant, and whether it has spread.
for tumors of the pancreas should visit a survivorship clinic yearly. Through
B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic, our cancer survivorship
clinic, childhood cancer survivors receive a comprehensive follow-up evaluation
from their cancer care team. In addition to meeting with your pediatric
oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists, cardiologists, neurologists,
neuro-psychologists, or alternative/complementary therapy specialists. We also offer patient and family
education, psychosocial assessment, genetic counseling, reproductive counseling, and opportunities to speak with other
childhood cancer survivors.
Lindsay Frazier, MD, explains how a multidisciplinary team of specialists come together to deliver care for solid tumors.