A neuroendocrine tumor is a rare tumor that can develop in many different organs of the body. It affects the cells that release hormones into the bloodstream (neuroendocrine cells).
Neuroendocrine tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). They often grow slowly, but not always.
The neuroendocrine system consists of nerve and gland cells. It produces hormones and releases into the bloodstream.
Neuroendocrine tumors don’t always cause signs and symptoms at first. The symptoms a person might experience depend on the location of their tumor whether it produces excess hormones.
In general, neuroendocrine tumor signs and symptoms might include;
- Pain from a growing tumor
- A growing lump a person can feel under the skin
- Feeling unusually tired
- Losing weight without trying
Neuroendocrine tumors that produce excess hormones (functional tumors) might cause;
- Skin flushing
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Skin rash
The exact cause of neuroendocrine tumors isn’t known. These cancers begin in neuroendocrine cells that have traits similar to those of nerve cells and hormone-producing. Neuroendocrine cells are found throughout the body.
Neuroendocrine tumors begin when neuroendocrine cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The DNA inside a cell contains the instructions that tell the cell what to do. The challenges tell the neuroendocrine cells to multiply rapidly and form a tumor.
Treatment to remove Neuroendocrine varies, depending largely on the type and stage of the disease. Common treatment options for neuroendocrine tumors include;
Surgery – to remove the primary tumor is often the first-line treatment for patients with localized neuroendocrine tumor.
Medical Oncology – depending on the type of neuroendocrine tumor and goals, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy may be an option.
Radiation Therapy – generally used when a neuroendocrine tumor has spread or is in a location that makes surgery difficult.
Gastroenterology – may need to remove obstructions in the GI tract and relieve pain or breathing problems.
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