Everything You Need to Know About Neuroendocrine Tumors

Everything You Need to Know About Neuroendocrine Tumors

Neuroendocrine tumours are malignancies that can grow wherever endocrine cells are found. Several bodily processes, including development, reproduction, and metabolism, are regulated by endocrine cells. Even though they are found all over the body, malignancies most frequently arise from them in the pancreas, small intestine, and lungs.

Although the term “neuroendocrine” suggests that these tumours contain both hormones and nerve cells, endocrine cells are believed to be the primary source of these cancers. The prefix “neuro-” seems more of a historical oddity.

What Are Neuroendocrine Tumours?

Unusual cancers known as neuroendocrine tumours begin in specific cells in your nervous and endocrine systems. These cells have traits with both neuron and hormone-producing endocrine cells. They connect your neurological system and endocrine system, which controls your hormones. There are many neuroendocrine cells in your body.

Malignant neuroendocrine tumours are all present. Regarding how violent they are, there are only several shades of grey. Most of them spread very quickly. Some do not. However, we categorize them all as cancer

Types Of Neuroendocrine Tumours

Primary and secondary tumours are the two categories of neuroendocrine tumours. Cancer that has not started spreading to the rest of your body is a primary tumour. A secondary tumour is a NET that has metastasized, generally to lymphoid tissue in your lymphatic system, liver, or bones.

Location determines the NET type. For instance, a neuroendocrine tumour of the gastrointestinal tract develops in the gut. The following are the many categories of primary neuroendocrine tumours:


The next most typical place for NETs is the lung. The bronchial system, which transports air to the lungs, is where about 30% of NETs develop. Carcinoid tumours were another name for lung NETs in the past.


The pancreas, a pear-shaped duct situated in your belly between the stomach and the vertebrae, might develop in about 7% of NET cases. About 7% of all pancreatic malignancies are pancreas NETs (PNETS), also known as islet cell tumours.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract

NETs are quite prevalent in the GI tract, especially the large intestine, small intestine, and appendix. The GI tract plays a key role in waste removal and food and liquid digestion.

Types Of Neuroendocrine Tumours

Symptoms Of Neuroendocrine Tumours

Initially, neuroendocrine tumours may not show any symptoms. Your symptoms may vary depending on the tumour’s position and whether it secretes extra hormones.

Hormonal: These conditions include uncontrolled blood sugar, terrible stomach ulcers, and chronic diarrhoea that does not improve with treatment. Different hormones may be released, depending on where the tumour is positioned in the body.

Mechanical: These have to do with how one component of the body functions, like a minor intestinal obstruction or localized pain. Because the tumour is pressing against the other structure, these symptoms appear.

Generally speaking, neuroendocrine tumour symptoms could include:

  • Increasing tumour pain
  • A developing bump under the skin that you may feel
  • Being exhausted
  • Shedding pounds without trying

Functional tumours, which are neuroendocrine tumours that overproduce hormones, may result in:

  • Skin blush
  • Often urinating
  • Skin rash
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst
  • Shakiness
Symptoms Of Neuroendocrine Tumours

Causes Of Neuroendocrine Tumours

It is unknown what specifically causes neuroendocrine tumours. These malignancies start in neuroendocrine cells, which resemble neuron and hormone-producing cells in their characteristics. Your body is full of neuroendocrine cells.

When neuroendocrine cells experience DNA changes (mutations), neuroendocrine tumours form, and a cell’s DNA carries information on what to do. The adjustments instruct the neuroendocrine cells to increase quickly and develop into a tumour.

Certain neuroendocrine tumours grow at an incredibly slow rate. Others are aggressive malignancies that develop (metastasize) to different body parts or infiltrate and kill healthy bodily tissue.

Risk factors for neuroendocrine tumours

Inheritance of genetic disorders that raise cancer risk increases the likelihood of neuroendocrine tumours. Examples of this:

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 1 (MEN1): 

Your parathyroid, thyroid, or adrenals become hyperactive or tumours due to this illness.

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 2 (MEN2): 

Your pituitary, pancreas, or parathyroid become hyperactive or tumours due to this illness.

Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1): 

Neurofibromatosis are diseases that affect the skin and the nerve system, collectively referred to as neurocutaneous illnesses. Abnormal increase in cell development can often lead to several illnesses. Tumours begin to grow all over the body as a result of this.

Von Hippel-Lindau Disease (VHL): 

A hereditary disorder known as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome or Von Hippel-Lindau illness is the chromosomal variation (change) that causes VHL is typically inherited from one’s parents. The first signs usually appear at an early age. VHL brings on tumours. While most of these tumours are harmless and thus not malignant, some might be. 

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex: 

A genetic disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) can manifest clinically in various ways. Childhood skin spots, autism, epilepsy, and growth retardation are some of this condition’s symptoms.

Risk factors for neuroendocrine tumours

How Are Neuroendocrine Tumours Diagnosed?

NETs are diagnosed by medical professionals depending on the type of NET they believe you may have. For instance, they could diagnose pancreatic neuroendocrine disorders using endoscopic ultrasonography. The most typical tests are:


The main purposes of biopsies are to confirm or disprove a cancer suspicion. However, biopsies are also carried out to identify additional reasons for your symptoms, such as immune, inflammatory, and infectious illnesses.

A biopsy is also carried out to check your suitability for organ transplantation. A biopsy is performed if you’ve had an organ transplant to ensure your body isn’t refusing it.

Core Needle Biopsy

In a needle biopsy, tissues, cells, or fluid, are removed from a suspected lump or other aberrant body parts using a narrow, tubular needle and syringe.

When a medical professional feels an unusual lump or when scanning tests reveal the existence of anomalies in a particular location of the body, a needle biopsy may be necessary. 

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A CT scan is a little more detailed than an x-ray. Multiple x-rays come together on the computer screen to create give you a 3D view of your body. This mainly comprises of your bones and cartilage.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan 

This technology provides you with the most detailed images of your organs and other body components using the power of magnetic and radio waves. It is the best and most detailed scan you can get for your body.

Positron Emission Testing (PET) Scan 

A radioactive substance is injected into your bloodstream during a positron emission testing (PET) scan to look for early cancer indications.

Treatment And Therapy Options For Neuroendocrine Tumours

Surgery is now the most often performed NET treatment method. Various alternative therapies could be used if your tumours are huge or have spread:

Somatostatin analogues: 

Somatostatin analogues are a class of drugs that can restrict the body from releasing several hormones. When tumour cells have spread to different parts of the body, this may retard the formation of the tumour.

Targeted therapy: 

Medications are meant to seek and bind to a specific property in cancer cells, such as a chromosomal mutation or a protein. Once hooked up, these medications may destroy the cells or aid the effectiveness of other treatments, like chemotherapy.


 Cancer cells do not perish in the same manner as healthy cells do, which makes them different from normal cells. They break like an unchecked photocopier that keeps printing pictures. These aberrant cells frequently change or mutate, preventing them from being recognized by the immune response. They help the body fight various infections and diseases.

Radiation therapy or Radiotherapy: 

Professionals use high-energy X-rays and several other radiation therapy techniques to harm the DNA of cancer cells, causing them to expire or cease proliferating. Cancer cells are not initially targeted by radiation therapy. It can damage cancer cells’ DNA to death during treatment.


One of the most effective cancer therapeutic approaches is chemotherapy. These cancer-fighting drugs go after cancer cells actively spreading throughout the body or in a specific area.

Various treatments have different problems or adverse effects. Medicines can have multiple effects on people, which are equally significant. Inquire about the damaging effects of your prescription with your doctor. They will give you tips on how to cope with negative results.

Treatment And Therapy Options For Neuroendocrine Tumours

Survival Rate For Neuroendocrine Tumours

The American Cancer Society utilizes data from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) SEER database to present survival stats for various cancer types.

According to the American Cancer Society, Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor (5-year relative survival rates):

  • Localized (93%): Pancreatic cancer does not appear to have spread elsewhere.
  • Regional (74%): The malignancy has spread to neighbouring tissues or lymph nodes after leaving the pancreas.
  • Distant (24%): Cancer has progressed to organs like the lungs, liver, or bones in other body areas.


The stats above are taken from those who had a Pancreatic NET diagnosis from 2011 to 2017. However, this applies to every form of cancer that every patient has a different case. So, no matter what stage the reports might show the patient to be in, it is important to take great care and strictly follow the treatment.

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