The role of the pancreas
In a healthy person the pancreas produces both insulin and glucagon. When blood sugar rises after a meal, beta cells in the pancreas release insulin. The insulin helps sugar from food to enter the blood cells and lowers levels of glucose to normal.
If blood sugar falls too low then alpha cells in the pancreas produce glucagon that triggers the liver to release glycogen. This is converted into blood glucose, thereby lifting levels of blood sugar to normal
What is known about insulinomas?
In most cases a single tumour develops in the beta cells (the insulin producing cells) withinthe pancreas. In a very small number of cases (1-3%) the tumour will develop in insulin producing cells that have ‘escaped’ into the abdomen.
The reason why the tumours form is not yet fully understood. They may be present for many years prior to diagnosis as the symptoms they cause can be confused with other conditions.