A neuroendocrine tumor is a rare cancer that originates in the neuroendocrine cells, which are a specific type of cell which have the characteristics of both nerve cells and cells that produce hormones. Since these cells are found all over the body, this type of cancer can occur anywhere in the body. The most commonly affected sites include the appendix, lungs, pancreas, rectum, and small intestines. A neuroendocrine tumor is of two types based on the ability to produce hormones. The ones which don’t release hormones are referred to as Non-Functional Neuroendocrine Tumors and ones that release excess amounts of hormones are referred to as Functional Endocrine Tumors
Causes For Neuroendocrine Tumor
As is the case with almost every other type of cancer, the exact cause of this cancer is still not known. What scientists do know is the mechanism leading to neuroendocrine cancer – this cancer starts when the DNA of the neuroendocrine cells undergo mutations and they begin to multiply without any restriction.
Certain genetic factors increase the risk of one developing neuroendocrine cancer which includes
– Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia – Type 1 & 2
– Tuberous Sclerosis
– Von Hippel-Lindau Disease
Symptoms Of Neuroendocrine Tumors
In the early stages of Neuroendocrine cancer, there are no visible symptoms. However, when the disease starts to progress to advanced stages, symptoms begin to surface. These symptoms vary with the location of cancer. The general symptoms that are common to all types of neuroendocrine cancer are
– Painful tumor that grows
– Unusual fatigue
– Unforeseen loss of weight
Neuroendocrine tumors that are functional or producing excess hormones can also cause the following symptoms
– Upset stomach
– Dizziness and Nausea
– Frequent thirst and urination
Methods Of Diagnosis
The methods of diagnosis for neuroendocrine tumors might differ as per the location of cancer. The general tests include
- Physical Examination: Medical professionals usually conduct this test to check for the presence of swollen lymph nodes or other signs of excess hormone production.
- Test For Excess Hormone: One might be asked to undergo a blood and urine test to find traces of any hormone above its normal level.
- Test For Images: One might be asked to go for an imaging test such as Ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan for any clear signs of cancerous growth.
- Biopsy: If cells of a particular region are suspected to be cancerous, a doctor might collect a sample of the cells for a thorough examination.
Treatments For Neuroendocrine Cancer
The method of treatment of cancer is decided as per the location of cancer and if the person is experiencing any visible symptoms
– Surgery: The main aim of this treatment method is to surgically remove as much of cancer afflicted tissues as possible
– Radiation Therapy: This aims to use high-intensity beams like Protons and X-rays to destroy the cancer cells. This method is preferred when surgery is not feasible.
– Chemotherapy: In chemotherapy, the patient is given special drugs either orally or interventionally to kill the cancer cells. This treatment brings a risk of reoccurrence of cancer.
– Controlling Excess Hormone: If your neuroendocrine tumor produces too many hormones, your doctor may prescribe drugs to help you manage your symptoms.
– Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy: PRRT is a treatment that combines a cancer-fighting medication with a little quantity of radioactivity. It enables direct delivery of radiation to cancer cells. Lutathera is a PRRT drug for the advanced stages of neuroendocrine tumors.