Neuroendocrine Tumors

The medical community estimates that about 170,000 people in the United States have neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). Of those individuals, roughly 12,000 each year are formally diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. Though rare compared to other cancers, the number of diagnoses has been rising by more than 5% annually.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors, the oncologists at Regional Cancer Care Associates will use the latest research and cutting-edge treatments to deliver the best possible outcome.

Doctor Examining Cancer Cells Under A Microscope

What Is Neuroendocrine Cancer?

Within the body’s neuroendocrine system are specialized cells, which share characteristics with nerve cells and the endocrine cells that produce hormones. When the DNA of neuroendocrine cells is damaged, the cells become abnormal, divide out of control, and form tumors known as NETs. Most NETs develop slowly, taking years to grow. Still, all NETs are considered to be malignant and can form anywhere in the body, with the most common areas being:

  • Lungs
  • Colon
  • Breasts
  • Prostate
  • Appendix
  • Small or large intestine
  • Rectum
  • Pancreas

The factors that cause NETs to develop are currently unknown. However, certain risk factors may elevate a patient’s likelihood of developing neuroendocrine cancer. These include multiple endocrine neoplasia, Von Hippel-Lindau disease, tuberous sclerosis, and neurofibromatosis.

Types of Neuroendocrine Tumors

There are several types of NETs, and which type you have will determine the treatments you receive. Some NETs grow rapidly and spread throughout the body, while others affect the number of hormones released into the body. The different neuroendocrine cancers include:

  • Adrenal cancer, which originates in the hormone-producing adrenal glands of the kidneys
  • Carcinoid tumors, which grow slowly and typically originate in the digestive tract or lungs
  • Islet cell cancer, which originates in the hormone-producing islet cells of the pancreas
  • Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer typically developing on the face, head, or neck
  • Paraganglioma, occurring when tumors starting in nerve cells are distributed throughout the body
  • Pheochromocytoma, when tumors in the adrenal gland release hormones that cause blood pressure issues

Most neuroendocrine tumors do not present symptoms in the earliest stages of cancer, regardless of type. But as NETs develop, patients may feel pain, a growing lump under the skin, and fatigue. They may also experience unexplained weight loss, dizziness, shakiness, skin rashes, diarrhea, and frequent urination. See your doctor right away if you notice any new symptoms that present consistently over time and fail to resolve on their own.

Treatment Options at RCCA

Many surgical and nonsurgical neuroendocrine cancer treatments are available at Regional Cancer Care Associates. Your doctors will determine the right treatments for you based on the type and stage of your NETs, as well as your overall health. Surgical removal is among the most common treatments and is successful in most cases. Other options include:

Every neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis is different, but you can feel confident in your prognosis when you trust your care to the oncologists at Regional Cancer Care Associates. Our compassionate, experienced team will explain all available treatment options and work with you to create the best treatment plan for your needs. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact one of our Connecticut, Maryland, or New Jersey locations today.