Today, no one of us is unaware of the term cancer, which affects not only adults but also children. There are chances that anyone of us may gets diagnosed with cancer, irrespective of age & gender. There is no single cause for the development of cancer in your body. But early and proper treatment can help you ease its symptoms.
There are various types of cancer, and the neuroendocrine tumor is one of them. It is a type of cancer that grows in the cells of the nervous system. It is considered a rare type of tumor that is hardly diagnosed. A recent study shows that more than 15,000 people are diagnosed with NET yearly. That is why you must know everything about Neuroendocrine tumor types, symptoms, and treatment.
It can be easily treated when one gets diagnosed with this tumor during its early stages. In most cases, NETs take years to grow and show few symptoms. However, in some instances, the growth rate of these tumors is fast and causes serious problems.
What Is A Neuroendocrine Tumor?
NET is the tumor that forms in the neuroendocrine cells. These cells are responsible for producing hormones. Cancer in the endocrine can also affect other body parts. But the majority of tumors are found in the abdomen. Other body parts that get affected due to the neuroendocrine tumor are the lungs, rectum, adrenal glands, and pancreas.
The endocrine system of the body is responsible for managing the nervous system of the body. When the tumor starts affecting the cells, people start facing various problems. NETs are non-cancerous in the early stages but may slowly turn malignant and spread to other body parts. These tumors are usually formed when the endocrine cells in the body start dividing at a faster pace.
Types Of Neuroendocrine Tumors
Various types of neuroendocrine tumors are divided based on their location. Let’s have an idea about all of them.
Carcinoid tumors usually form in the lungs and are slow-growing tumors. The subset of these NETs also affects the appendix, small intestine, rectum, and colon. This tumor doesn’t show any symptoms in its early stages. However, it starts to form and release hormones showing NET signs. Due to this, people suffer from diarrhea, chest pain, wheezing, etc. So, it is advisable to see the doctors when you face even minor symptoms of this type of tumor.
Merkel Cell NET
Merkel cell tumor is a rare tumor that is hard to diagnose. It is a skin cancer that looks like a red color swelling on the head, neck, or face. This NET is commonly seen in older people. As per reports, the leading cause of Merkel cells tumor is a weak immune system.
People with this type of tumor often experience painless nodules on the skin. During the higher stages, it starts affecting the body’s other cells. That’s why it is essential to diagnose Merkel cell NET on time.
The most common type of NET begins in the adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for producing hormones that manage different tissues and organs of the body. The chances of getting an adrenal tumor are higher in children below five years.
It is also seen that adults between 40-50 are also diagnosed with adrenal NET tumors. The treatment of this tumor is possible when detected during the early stages. Some early signs of adrenal tumor are nausea, vomiting, weight gain, fever, etc.
This NET type occurs in the pancreas cells responsible for producing pancreatic hormones. It is also a rare tumor that begins in the small cells called Islet cells. The growth rate of this tumor is relatively higher than other types of NETs.
The pancreatic tumor may show little or no symptoms at all. However, the pancreatic tumor is further divided into functional and non-functional tumors. The tumor that secretes the hormones are functional, while the tumor that does not secrete the hormones are non-functional.
The main reason behind forming this NET is the abnormal cells in the body. Due to this, the tumor starts forming in the body’s different cells. These tumors are usually non-cancerous. People of any age can suffer from this type of NET. When the cells keep dividing, it also affects other body parts. Some common symptoms of this NET are high blood pressure, headache, fast heartbeat, and nausea.
Early Signs And Symptoms Of Neuroendocrine Tumor
The early signs and symptoms of NET depend on the tumor’s location. Doctors also consider the type while diagnosing the stage of this tumor. The majority of NETs start forming in the endocrine system. As a result, people start to experience common problems in the beginning.
However, the signs also depend on the functionality of NET. A tumor that is functional shows symptoms as compared to a non-functional one. The early signs and symptoms of NETs (in general) are as follows:
- High blood pressure
- Redness on skin
- Consistent pain in the neck
- Pain in abdomen
- Difficulty in breathing
- Painless lump on the body part
- Swelling in glands
- Weight loss
Some of the common symptoms of functional NETs are as follows:
- Frequent urination
- Rashes on skin
- Frequent bleeding
- Feeling of shakiness
- Various ulcer disease
People often don’t face any of the above neuroendocrine tumor symptoms. The proper diagnostic process can help you know the type and stage of NET. Some of the problems are also an indication of other health problems. It would be best to contact a neurologist to discuss your issues.
Diagnosis Process Of Neuroendocrine Tumors
The diagnostic process of NET also depends on the location of the tumor. That’s why doctors use specialized techniques to diagnose these tumors. It is also essential to know about the functionality and current stage of the tumor. Various tests are used to diagnose the NETs:
One of the common ways experts use to diagnose NET is a physical exam. During this, the doctor may ask you about showing medical history. A physical test is conducted based on your past and current health condition. Doctors try to feel the tumor on the different body parts. In this process, they use medical tools to check the swollen nodes and bumps on the skin. It is the primary diagnostic process used to detect NETs.
Various Imaging Tests
Another way to diagnose the neuroendocrine tumor is by conducting imaging tests. Some popular tests are CT scan, MRIs, and ultrasound, which creates a picture of the internal tumor. Experts also use Positron Emission Tomography(PET) to get a clear picture of tumors. During the PET, the doctor injects the tracer into a patient’s vein.
During the biopsy, the expert takes a small sample of cells for examination. Later on, the sample of the cell is examined under the microscope. In the biopsy, the doctor uses the tube to check the tumor’s location. Another process involved is the core needle biopsy, in which a thin needle extracts the fluid and tissue from the abnormal cells. It is a widely used diagnosis process to get an overview of NET.
Different Stages Of Neuroendocrine Tumor
The stage of the tumor is an easy way to define the current condition of cancerous cells that helps the doctor provide the right treatment. It is also known as “the grade” in the medical industry that helps in the classification process. Various factors are considered based on stage to know how fast the affected cells grow. There are different stages of the NETs based on their locations and symptoms.
It is the stage at which the neuroendocrine tumor is in the particular cells of the body. Localization is also the early stage and shows little or no symptoms.
The tumor is considered in the regional stage when it spreads into the nearby cells. In this stage, people start to notice mild symptoms at this stage of NET. The cancerous cells also begin affecting the tissues and lymph nodes.
It is the higher stage in which the cells divide at a faster rate. During the metastasis, the tumor spreads to different body parts. It also indicates severe problems as most of the healthy cells start destroying.
Experts also identify the tumor based on its potential for malignant growth. NET has three grades based on how fast it grows and affects the other cells.
The Grade 1 tumor is non-cancerous and shows few symptoms. It is also known as the low-grade level. At this level, the cells divide at a lower rate. The growth rate of generating healthy cells is also slower.
In this grade, the cells divide at an intermediate rate. NET of this grade starts affecting the nearby tissues and cells. People can easily notice common symptoms like fatigue and lumps in the body.
Tumors in grade 3 are higher and divide faster than the previous one. In most cases, the tumor is cancerous and affects other body parts.
What Causes Neuroendocrine Tumors?
There is no exact cause behind getting a neuroendocrine tumor. It starts to begin in the body when the cells develop unusual changes. The starting position of NET is the neuro-cells that spread across the body. These cells are responsible for producing hormones. Their role in the body is to monitor the nervous system.
One of the common causes of developing NET is dividing cells in the body. When the neuroendocrine cells divide, it also starts affecting the DNA. As a result, there is an interruption in the signals of the cells. Due to this, neuro-cells start dividing at a faster pace and form a tumor. Other conditions that cause the NETs are as follows.
Multiple Endocrine Neoplasias, Type 1 (MEN 1)
It is also known as MEN 1 and represents when the thyroid and other glands don’t work properly. As a result, there are higher chances of forming tumors.
Multiple Endocrine Neoplasias, Type 2 (MEN 2)
In this condition, the pancreas parathyroid becomes overactive and affects its functioning. During MEN 2, endocrine cells divide at a faster rate and form tumors.
Factors That May Give Rise To NETs
Various factors increase the risk of getting NETs, such as family history, age, and current health condition. If you have any severe disease, there are also chances you will develop a tumor in your body. The following are the common risk factors of NETs:
Like any other disease, the neuroendocrine tumor may also pass through genes. If one of your family members suffers from NET, there are higher chances you also suffer from some tumor. The primary cause behind it is the genetic mutation of affected cells.
Another way to get the NET is via nerves. Various genes at the time of birth pass down from one generation to another. Whenever there is a change in the gene, it causes a tumor in the neuronal cells.
Age is another factor in getting the NET. According to the study, different types of NETs affect people of a certain age. Merkel cell tumor affects people of age over 70 years. However, more than 60% of people diagnosed with carcinoid cancer are between the age of 50-60.
Other endocrine tumors start in individuals aged between the 40s and 60s. It is also seen that men have a higher probability of getting NET as compared to women.
Weak Immune System
The immune system is the powerhouse of the body that fights against infections. When it starts to weaken due to abnormal cells, the risk of getting NETs increases; another factor that may give rise to this cancer is overexposure to direct sunlight. The consistent long hours in the sunlight also increase the chance of getting a tumor. When excess ultraviolet rays come in direct contact with the body, they cause market cell cancer.
What Are The Possible Neuroendocrine Tumor Treatments?
After a proper diagnosis of the NETs, your doctor suggests the best possible neuroendocrine tumor treatment. The type of therapy depends on the stage, location, and type of tumor. In the majority of cases, patients are diagnosed at the higher stage. Experts need to design special treatment based on the symptoms. Some of the common possible treatments for NET are as follows:
Hormone therapy is used to slow down the growth of the tumor. It doesn’t shrink the tumor size but is beneficial in controlling the divided cells. The main goal of this therapy is to control the fluid released from the tumor along with hormones.
An analog called Somatostatin reduces the symptoms naturally and destroys the affected cells and nerves. During the therapy, various drugs like Sandostatin and Somatuline are given as injections.
Targeted therapy is the widely used cancer treatment. During this therapy, various drugs are used to target the tumor’s specific genes, cells, and tissues. The most significant advantage of targeted therapy is that it stops the growth of tumors without damaging healthy cells. Doctors also conduct additional tests to learn more about cancer. Some of the popular drugs used in this therapy are Sutent and Afinitor.
Radiation therapy is used when the tumor spreads into different body parts. It is usually given before the surgery to clear the tumor’s location. During the treatment, a high intensity of radiation is used to shrink the size of NET.
The large beam of rays is selected based on the tumor size. Experts use different intensities to kill the affected cells. Various sessions are required to keep the tumor of the desired size. Radiation is also helpful in treating various brain tumors. To know everything about it, Read Radiation Therapy for Brain now.
What Is The Survival Rate Of Neuroendocrine Tumors?
The survival rate of the Neuroendocrine tumor differs from patient to patient. In some cases, it grows very slowly, whereas it is fast in other cases. It depends on neuroendocrine tumor types, symptoms, and treatment. The rate of survival gives you an idea of the percentage of people who live for a certain period with the same symptoms.
Usually, the survival rate of NETs is measured on a 5-year basis. Experts also consider the various groups of cancer, like local, regional, and distant, to know about the survival rate. Here is the estimated survival rate of different types and stages of NET:
- Localized NET: 97%
- Regional NET: 95%
- Distant NET: 66%
- Pancreatic tumor: 94%
- Lung tumor: 87%
- Gastrointestinal tumor: 95%
- Other stages of NETs: 52%-58%
This survival rate is an estimate based on the research. Various things are considered to calculate the percentage, like symptoms and tumor location. To get a better idea of the survival rate in your case, consult with a cancer specialist.
There are various causes behind getting tumors in neuroendocrine cells. This tumor generally forms in the endocrine cells and grows rapidly. NETs can form in any part of the body and affect people of different ages. So, it is essential to know neuroendocrine tumor types, symptoms, and treatment during their early stages.
Some common locations where these tumors may occur in your body are the lungs, pancreas, adrenal glands, and digestive tract. It may show little or no symptoms at all. Once you feel the bump on the body part, visit the doctor as soon as possible.
University Cancer Centers have a team of specialists providing proven cancer treatments. We carefully diagnose the tumor and offer safe treatment to our patients. Most of our therapy is non-invasive and starts showing results after a few sessions. You will get full support and extensive care from us. To book your appointment, call (713)-474-1414.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What Are The Best Treatments For The Neuroendocrine Tumors?
Some of the well-tested treatments for NET are as follows:
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
- Radiation therapy
Are Neuroendocrine Tumors Painful?
During the early stages, the NETs are painless. These tumors may show few symptoms. However, you may experience pain when it spreads to different organs.
Can The Tumor In Neuroendocrine Be Curable?
No, there is no cure for the NET right now. Various diagnosis processes determine its stage and location. But, it can be controlled by using multiple therapies.