Neuroendocrine Tumors

What are Neuroendocrine Tumors?

Neuroendocrine tumors are abnormal growths that develop in specialized cells neuroendocrine cells. These cells have similar characteristics to nerve cells and hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

These types of tumors are quite rare but can develop anywhere in the body. Neuroendocrine tumors are most likely found to form in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum and pancreas.
 

Who is impacted?

Most risk factors can affect the development of a neuroendocrine tumor but they do not directly cause it:
  • Age – Pheochromocytoma is most common in people between ages 40 to 60. Merkel cell cancer is most common in people over the age of 70.
  • Gender – Men are more likely to develop pheochromocytoma and Merkel cell cancer than women.
  • Race/ethnicity – White people are most likely to develop Merkel cell cancer but some black people and people of Polynesian descent may also develop the disease.
  • Family history – About 10% of pheochromocytomas are linked to hereditary or genetic causes.
  • Immune system suppression – Those who have HIV and have suppressed immune system are at higher risk for developing a neuroendocrine tumor.
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) – There is clinical evidence to suggest a link between this virus and Merkel cell cancer.
  • Arsenic exposure increases risk of Merkel cell cancer.
  • Sun exposure

How is a Neuroendocrine tumor diagnosed?

Depending on the type of tumor suspected, signs and symptoms of the patient, age and associated medical conditions of the patients and results on previous medical tests, the following tests/exams/procedures may or may not be done (in addition to physical exam):
  • Blood/urine tests
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Biopsy
  • PET scan

How is a Neuroendocrine tumor treated?

Treatment of a neuroendocrine tumor is dependent on the type of tumor, location, whether hormones are produced, aggressiveness of the disease, and whether or not it has spread. Treatment can be done by:
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy


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