What is Zollinger-Ellison syndrome?
Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare condition that causes tumours to develop in the pancreas. These tumours are cancerous in half of all cases, and they secrete a hormone called gastrin that provokes the stomach into over-producing gastric acid. This excess stomach acid causes stomach and duodenal ulcers.
The syndrome most often affects people aged between 30-60, and its cause is not known. Some researchers believe that it is genetic, and is caused by a tumour-suppressing gene that is absent or abnormal. It can be a very uncomfortable digestive disease, affecting the stomach and intestine with ulcers and the pancreas with potentially cancerous tumours. It presents a range of unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Stabbing abdominal pain, due to the ulcers
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Weight loss, due to a lessened ability to eat food and to the cancerous tumours, if present.
How is Zollinger-Ellison syndrome treated?
If the pancreatic tumours are cancerous they will require treatment which may involve open surgery to remove. Stomach and duodenal ulcers are now treated with a combination of drugs, about which your GP can advise you. In very severe cases of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, the entire stomach may have to be surgically removed. This treatment is also the only way to guarantee that there will be no relapse.
Back to top of page