Key Points about Neuroendocrine Tumors
- Neuroendocrine tumors can develop throughout the body.
- Doctors use biopsy, imaging tests, blood tests, urine tests and/or physical exams to diagnose a neuroendocrine tumor.
- Treatment for a neuroendocrine tumor may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Neuroendocrine tumors are a type of cancer that begins in the neuroendocrine cells, occurring throughout the body. Some neuroendocrine tumors grow slowly, while others grow more quickly. The most common places that neuroendocrine tumors occur are:
- Small intestine
Neuroendocrine tumors causes
Neuroendocrine tumors occur when neuroendocrine cells develop mutations (changes) to their DNA.
Neuroendocrine tumors risk factors
Having one of the following inherited genetic syndromes may increase your risk for developing a neuroendocrine tumor:
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN 1)
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2 (MEN 2)
- Tuberous sclerosis
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease
Neuroendocrine tumors symptoms
Signs and symptoms of neuroendocrine tumors can include:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Increased thirst
- Lump under your skin that you can feel and grows in size
- Pain in the area of the tumor
- Skin rash
- Unintentional weight loss
Neuroendocrine tumors diagnosis
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam - your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors.
- Blood test - your doctor may use a blood test to check for high levels of certain hormones in your body, indicating a problem with your endocrine system.
- Urine test - your doctor may use a urine test to check for high levels of certain hormones in your body, indicating a problem with your endocrine system.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan - this type of imaging test provides a 3-D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine if there is any cancer present.
- Biopsy - in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for abnormalities.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer.
Neuroendocrine tumors treatments
Depending on your personal health history, the extent and location of your neuroendocrine tumor and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery - in most cases, your doctor will recommend a surgical procedure to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to save as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible while removing the tumor.
- Chemotherapy - if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site of the cancer, your doctor may recommend that you undergo chemotherapy. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
- Medications - your doctor may prescribe medications that can help regulate your hormone levels.
- Radiation therapy - this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically or if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.