Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) can originate in different organs and tissues of the body that contain neuroendocrine cells. Neuroendocrine cells exist in the nervous system and the endocrine system. These two systems work together to perform the necessary functions of your body properly.
Unlike other tumor types, neuroendocrine tumors are not located in a certain organ or tissue. They are formed of cells that are scattered throughout the endocrine system. They also produce bioactive substances and hormones that regulate significant functions of cells.
Neuroendocrine Tumors and Symptoms
Like any disease, having one or more of the symptoms listed below does not mean that you have a neuroendocrine tumor. They are general symptoms observed in cancer patients with neuroendocrine tumors. Patients may or may not experience these symptoms. Existence of the symptoms is not sufficient for the doctor to confirm a cancer diagnosis. Within the scope of the caveats, the symptoms observed in cancer patients with neuroendocrine tumors are as follows:
- Sudden attacks of diarrhea
- Fever and rash
- Nausea and subsequent vomiting
- Redness in the facial area
- High blood pressure and rapid heart rate
- An extreme decrease or increase in blood sugar
- Stubborn ulcers in the stomach
Diagnosis and Testing of Neuroendocrine Tumors
Correct diagnosis and testing are vital in neuroendocrine tumors. Doctors perform a series of tests to diagnose NETs. These tests include imaging tests and biochemistry tests.
The most effective treatment option might be determined through certain tests such as an MRI, Octreotide scan, serum chromogranin A (CgA) result, 24-hour urinary (urine), 5- Hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA), and examination with an endoscopic ultrasound.
If clinical findings and laboratory tests are suspicious for a neuroendocrine tumor, these are some of the steps to be followed:
- Determine the organ that is the origin of the disease to make the differential diagnosis
- Identify the stage and extent
- Evaluate the possibility of surgery
- Determine treatment options
- Determine whether the disease has recurred in the post-treatment setting
You may hear that NETs are referred to as functional or non-functional tumors. Some NETs can produce too many hormones and cause various symptoms and complications depending on the location of the tumor and the hormones secreted. These NETs are called functional tumors. If NETs do not produce hormones, they are called non-functional tumors, but they can still cause complications.