Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are a type of cancer that originates from the cells of the neuroendocrine system. This system is made up of nerve and gland cells and is responsible for producing hormones that regulate various functions in your body such as heart rate, digestion, mood and reproduction. NETs are often slow-growing and can occur anywhere in the body, but most commonly are found in the digestive tract, lungs, pancreas and rectum.

NETs are complex and can behave differently. They can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) and they can produce excess hormones resulting in unique syndromes (functional NETs) or they may not produce any hormones at all (nonfunctional NETs).

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Symptoms vary depending on where in the body the NET is located and whether it is functional or nonfunctional. Some common symptoms include flushing of the skin, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pain, and wheezing.

The exact cause of NETs is currently unknown, but some factors, such as certain inherited conditions and a history of other types of cancer, are believed to increase the risk of developing these tumors. Treatment options for NETs can include surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy. The chosen treatment will depend on the type, size and location of the tumor, whether it has spread to other parts of the body, and the patient’s overall health.

Causes of Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are a diverse group of malignant tumors that arise from the neuroendocrine cells scattered throughout the body. They are most commonly found in the lung or gastrointestinal system, but they can also originate in other parts of the body such as the pancreas, rectum, and appendix.

The exact cause of neuroendocrine tumors is not known. However, there are a few factors known to increase the risk of developing these tumors:

1. Genetic Factors: Certain genetic syndromes can increase the risk of developing NETs. These include Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL), and Neurofibromatosis type 1.

2. Family History: A family history of neuroendocrine tumors increases the risk of developing these kinds of tumors.

3. Age: The risk of developing neuroendocrine tumors increases with age. They can occur at any age, but are most often diagnosed in people in their 60s and 70s.

4. Smoking: Smoking may increase the risk of developing certain types of neuroendocrine tumors.

5. Alcohol: Chronic heavy alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of developing certain kinds of neuroendocrine tumors.

6. Other Conditions: Having other health conditions such as diabetes and gastric ulcers may increase the risk of developing certain types of NETs.

However, it’s important to note that having one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean that a person will develop neuroendocrine tumors. Many people with risk factors never develop these tumors, while others with no known risk factors do.

Research into the causes of neuroendocrine tumors is ongoing, as scientists continue to investigate genetic, environmental, and other factors that may contribute to these tumors.

Risk Factors of Neuroendocrine tumours

Sure, here are the risk factors associated with neuroendocrine tumours:

1. Age: Older adults are more typically at risk.

2. Family history: Some types of neuroendocrine tumours, especially those affecting the endocrine component, are associated with inherited syndromes. A family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN1), von Hippel-Lindau disease, neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), or tuberous sclerosis may increase the risk.

3. Personal Medical History: Having certain conditions can increase the risk. Those with a history of stomach conditions are more susceptible to gastric neuroendocrine tumours.

4. Race or ethnicity: For reasons not completely understood, African Americans have higher rates of neuroendocrine tumours than people of other races.

5. Genetic Disorders: Certain genetic disorders, such as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and type 2 (MEN2), can increase the risk of developing neuroendocrine cancer.

6. Other Factors: A hormone imbalances and certain dietary and environmental conditions can increase the risk.

Keep in mind that just because somebody has one or more risk factors doesn’t automatically mean they will develop neuroendocrine tumours. It only increases the chances, and quite often, people who develop these have none of the above risk factors. Always consult with a healthcare provider for guidance.

Signs and Symptoms of Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are unusual tumors that originate from the cells of the endocrine (hormonal) and nervous system. They commonly occur in the intestine, where they are often called carcinoid tumors, but they can be found in other parts of the body such as the pancreas, lung, and rarely, other areas. These tumors can produce excessive amounts of hormones which can lead to a variety of symptoms. However, in some cases, they may not cause any noticeable symptoms until the late stages.

Signs and symptoms of neuroendocrine tumors can include:

1. Gastrointestinal discomfort: This can comprise abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

2. Cardiovascular issues: People may experience flushing without sweating, a fast heartbeat, and sudden blood pressure changes.

3. Respiratory problems: Symptoms like shortness of breath and wheezing might occur.

4. Hormonal imbalances: Depending on the type of hormones secreted by the tumor, symptoms may vary. Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, for example, might cause diabetes, stomach ulcers, skin rashes or changes in bowel/urine habits.

5. Loss of appetite and weight loss: These are more general symptoms and can often be associated with other conditions as well.

6. ‘Carcinoid syndrome’: This refers to a set of symptoms that can develop in people with NETs, especially those with advanced disease, and includes flushing of the skin, diarrhea, and wheezing in the chest.

7. ‘Carcinoid heart disease’: In rare cases, NETs may lead to damage to heart valves, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath and swelling in the legs.

It’s important to note that the presence of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the person has a neuroendocrine tumor – other conditions can also lead to similar symptoms. Therefore, if you or someone else is dealing with such symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare tumours that arise from cells of the endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems. These cells are known as neuroendocrine cells, and they can be found throughout the body. However, neuroendocrine tumours most commonly affect the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum, and pancreas.

Individuals affected by these tumours experience a variety of symptoms which are largely dependent on the location of the tumour and whether it is functional or non-functional. Functional tumours produce hormones, leading to specific symptoms like flushing, diarrhea, wheezing or asthma-like symptoms. Non-functional tumours, on the other hand, do not produce hormones and their symptoms are often related to the growth and spread of the tumour itself.

The diagnosis of NETs often involves several stages, including the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, and a series of tests depending on the location of the suspected tumour. This could include blood and urine tests, imaging scans, and biopsies.

Neuroendocrine tumours can behave in different ways. Some can be slow-growing (benign) and may not cause symptoms for many years, while others can be fast-growing (malignant) and can spread to other parts of the body. The treatment for NETs also varies greatly depending on the location, size, and extent of spread of the tumour. The treatment could involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, intervening in the hormone-producing ability of the tumour, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments.

Treatment of Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumours, also known as NETs, are rare tumors that originate from cells of the endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems. They often start in the digestive tract (stomach, appendix, small intestine, colon, rectum) or in the lungs but can also arise in other parts of the body such as the pancreas, ovary, or testes. The treatment depends on a variety of factors including the type, size, and location of the tumor, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

1. Surgery: This is generally the first line of treatment for NETs and aims to remove all of the cancerous tissue.

2. Somatostatin Analogues: These are drugs that help to control the symptoms of NETs by reducing the amount of hormones the tumours produce.

3. Targeted Therapy: These treatments aim to specifically target the cancer cells without damaging the normal cells. For NETs, targeted drugs can be used to slow the growth of the tumors or to kill cancer cells by blocking blood flow to the tumor.

4. Hormone Therapy: Some types of neuroendocrine tumors require hormone therapy as part of their treatment.

5. Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. It may be used if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

6. Radiotherapy: This treatment uses ionising radiation to control or kill malignant cells. It may be given from an external source or it could be given internally through the application of radioactive isotopes.

7. Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT): A type of treatment that delivers targeted radiation therapy to NET cells, it involves the intravenous administration of a radioactive compound that targets somatostatin receptors on the surface of NET cells. This targeted radiotherapy allows for the delivery of radiation specifically to the tumour, minimizing injury to healthy tissues.

8. Embolization Therapies: These are used to cut off the blood supply to the tumour.

Remember that the exact treatment plan will depend on individual factors, including the patient’s overall health. It’s important to discuss all possible treatment options with your healthcare team to understand the potential benefits and risks of each, and to make an informed decision about your care.

Medications commonly used for Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are a diverse group of tumours that arise from cells of the endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems. These tumours can occur all over the body, but are most often found in the lungs or gastrointestinal tract.

The most common treatment approach is surgery to remove the tumour, if possible. When surgery cannot remove all of the cancer or if the neuroendocrine tumour has spread to other parts of the body, medication-based therapies are commonly used.

Here are some of the most common medications used:

1. Somatostatin analogs (SSAs): These drugs, such as octreotide (Sandostatin) and lanreotide (Somatuline Depot), work by decreasing the production of hormones and can slow the growth of NETs. SSAs are often used in patients with well-differentiated NETs.

2. Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT): This is a targeted treatment that combines a drug that targets cancer cells with a small amount of a radioactive substance. One example is lutetium Lu 177 dotatate (Lutathera).

3. Targeted therapy drugs: These drugs, such as everolimus (Afinitor) and sunitinib (Sutent), can limit the growth of neuroendocrine cells by blocking signals that tell the cancer cells to grow and divide.

4. Chemotherapy: In some cases, standard chemotherapy drugs may be used to treat neuroendocrine tumours. The specific combination of drugs used will depend on the type and location of the tumour.

5. Interferons: These proteins can slow tumour growth and are sometimes used to treat neuroendocrine tumours.

If you’ve been diagnosed with NETs, your treatment plan will depend on various factors, including the type and stage of the tumour, as well as your overall health. It’s important to discuss these factors and your treatment options with your healthcare team.

Prevention of Neuroendocrine tumours

Preventing neuroendocrine tumors can be challenging because its specific causes are currently unknown. However, following general cancer prevention guidelines may reduce the risk. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Regular Check-ups: Getting regular medical check-ups can help detect any abnormalities early. If you have a family history of this disease, informing your doctor can help them monitor your health for any signs of the condition more proactively.

2. Healthy lifestyle: Eating a balanced, nutritious diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking may significantly lower your chances of health complications including cancer.

3. Genetic Counseling: For those with a family history of neuroendocrine tumors or other types of cancer, genetic counseling and testing may offer insight into their personal risk. If a genetic mutation is identified, enhanced surveillance or preventive surgery may be suggested.

4. Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals: Regular exposure to certain chemicals may increase risk. Safety measures should be taken in workplaces where exposure is a possibility.

5. Addressing Persistent Symptoms: If you have persistent symptoms associated with neuroendocrine tumors such as flushing, diarrhea, wheezing, or rapid heartbeat, see your doctor promptly.

Please note that these are general suggestions and do not guarantee the prevention of neuroendocrine tumors. Always consult with your healthcare provider for your personalized medical advice.

FAQ’s about Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are a type of cancer that start in the neuroendocrine cells, which are spread throughout many organs in the body. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about them:

1. What are neuroendocrine cells?
Neuroendocrine cells are specialized cells that make hormones and are similar to nerve cells. They are present throughout our body, including the digestive tract, lungs, and pancreas.

2. What are neuroendocrine tumours (NETs)?
NETs are rare tumours that arise from neuroendocrine cells. They may be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). NETs can be found anywhere in the body but most commonly occur in the gut or lungs.

3. What are the symptoms of NETs?
Symptoms can vary depending on the location of the tumor. Some NETs may not cause any symptoms. However, common symptoms may include flushing of the skin, diarrhea, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a racing heartbeat. NETs can also lead to additional symptoms if they produce too many hormones, a condition known as carcinoid syndrome.

4. How are NETs diagnosed?
Different tests can diagnose NETs, including blood and urine tests, imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI, and a biopsy where a small sample of tissue is removed for testing in a lab. There may also be tests to measure the levels of specific hormones in your body.

5. What are the treatments for NETs?
The treatment of neuroendocrine tumours primarily involves surgery, hormone therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. The choice of treatment depends on the type of NET, its size, its location, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

6. What is the prognosis for NETs?
The prognosis for neuroendocrine tumours can vary widely and is dependent on factors such as the type of tumour, its location, and stage at diagnosis. Some people with slow-growing NETs can live for many years, while others with more aggressive types of NETs may have a less favourable prognosis.

7. Can NETs be prevented?
Given that the causes of most NETs are not known, there are no guaranteed ways to prevent them. However, living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol use can help lower the risk of various types of cancer, potentially including NETs.

Please, remember to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and treatment.

Useful links

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are a type of cancer that begin in specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells. They can occur in various organs throughout the body, but are mainly found in the pancreas, lungs, stomach, bowel, and appendix.

Here are some links to research articles and journals about neuroendocrine tumors:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36396595/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37401795/

Please, ensure that you have the necessary permission or subscriptions to access the full text of some of these research papers. If there are specific areas of neuroendocrine tumors you are interested in, it could potentially be tailored to provide a more focused list of resources.

Complications of Neuroendocrine tumours

Neuroendocrine tumors are a diverse group of malignancies that arise from neuroendocrine cells throughout the body, most commonly in the lungs, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract. The complications arising from neuroendocrine tumors can vary depending on the location of the tumor, its size and the extent to which it has spread. Here are some potential complications:

1. Metastatic Disease: Many neuroendocrine tumors are slow growing, but some can metastasize or spread to other parts of the body, complicating treatment and prognosis.

2. Hormone Overproduction: Since these are hormone-producing cells, excess hormone production can lead to various symptoms and syndromes, such as carcinoid syndrome, which can cause flushing, diarrhea, and heart disease.

3. Organ Dysfunction: Depending on the size and location of the tumor, it may cause dysfunction of the affected organ. For example, a tumor in the pancreas could lead to diabetes.

4. Malnutrition and Weight Loss: Some neuroendocrine tumors, particularly those in the digestive tract, can interfere with nutrition absorption, leading to weight loss and malnutrition.

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5. Pain: Pain can be a complication of neuroendocrine tumors. This can occur due to pressure from the tumor on nearby organs, nerves, or bones.

6. Other symptoms and complications can include obstructive symptoms like jaundice if the bile duct is involved, intestinal obstruction if the intestines are involved, or respiratory symptoms if the lungs are affected.

7. Psychological distress: The process of diagnosis and the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors can also induce substantial psychological stress in patients.

The nature and extent of complications depend on factors such as the individual patient’s health, the type of neuroendocrine tumor, and the exact location of the tumor. It’s important to have a regular follow-up with a healthcare provider to manage these potential complications.

Home remedies of Neuroendocrine tumours

While there are no known home remedies that can cure Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs), certain lifestyle changes and self-care practices can help in managing symptoms and improving the quality of life of those living with their condition.

However, the following suggestions should not replace professional medical advice.

1. Nutrition: A balanced and healthy diet plays an important role in overall health and recovery. Patients with neuroendocrine tumors are usually advised to eat smaller, more frequent meals to manage symptoms like diarrhoea and weight loss. Adequate hydration is also crucial.

2. Physical activity: Regular physical exercise, as far as the patient’s condition allows, can help maintain overall well-being, manage weight, and reduce stress.

3. Sleep: Adequate rest is crucial for the body to function and heal.

4. Mental well-being: Living with NETs can be emotionally challenging. Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, counseling or support groups can help manage stress and mental health.

5. Complementary therapies: Some people find relief in complementary therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, and yoga. Although, these methods should not replace the treatment advised by the doctor and the patient must consult their healthcare team before starting any new type of therapy.

6. Regular monitoring: Regular check-ups and tests will help to effectively monitor the condition and detect any changes in the early stages.

It is important to maintain good communication with your healthcare team and to inform them about any new symptoms or problems. They can give specific advice and adjustments to treatment based on individual circumstances. A healthy lifestyle along with prescribed treatment can significantly contribute to enhancing the quality of life and manage neuroendocrine tumors.

Remember, it is not safe or advisable to treat neuroendocrine tumors solely with home remedies, and professional medical guidance should always be sought and adhered to.

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Last Update: January 9, 2024