Neuroendocrine tumors are a type of cancer that begins in specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells. These cells have the same qualities as nerve cells and hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine is a rare type of tumor that can occur anywhere in your body. Most neuroendocrine tumors are found in the small intestine, lungs, appendix, rectum and pancreas.
NETs grow in cells that make hormones, chemicals that help control different actions in your body, like your sex drive, hair growth, and mood. A neuroendocrine tumor can develop anywhere in your body, including your stomach, pancreas, glands, intestines, or lungs.
Some NETs are cancer, which can become malignant and spread to other parts of your body. Many of these tumors also make hormones, giving you specific symptoms. Other neuroendocrine tumors are benign and don’t move from their original place.
Most neuroendocrine tumors grow gradually, over the years, not months, compared with other types of tumors. Doctors use different treatments to remove or shrink them, other therapies are also available to make your symptoms better.
Types of NETs
There are many types of NETs. Their names are based on the kind of cell they produce or the hormone they produce.
It can form in many parts of your body, but they’re most common in the digestive system cells-the stomach, appendix, small intestines, and rectum. They can also form in the small organ behind the breastbone called the thymus or lungs, they rarely grow in the kidneys, pancreas, testicles or ovaries. These tumors may emit a variety of hormones that may have an impact on how you feel. Doctors refer to these
symptom categories as carcinoid syndrome.
These grow in your pancreas. There are a few kinds of them:
They are the most common type. These cells produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
Typically, they are not cancerous
They produce glucagon, a hormone that raises your blood sugar level. Approximately half of them are malignant and frequently spread to other body parts.
It produces gastrin hormone, which helps you digest food. These tumors can grow if you have a rare disorder called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. About half of these gastrinomas are cancerous and often spread quickly in the body.
It is a substance that impacts the production of other hormones in your body, and somatostatinomas produce excessive amounts of it.
They produce a hormone that triggers the release of other hormones, called vasoactive intestinal peptides (VIP). Most VIPomas are cancerous.
Your thyroid gland, an organ at the base of your neck, develops a condition called medullary cancer. This tumor develops in the hormone-producing cells that control your body’s calcium levels.
It grows in cells of your adrenal glands, which sit above your kidneys. It makes the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Usually, these tumors are not cancerous.
Symptoms of a NET
Depending on the type of NET, you may experience the following tumor-related symptoms or signs:
General cancer symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Symptoms related to the tumor size and location:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain in a specific area
- Thickening or a lump in the body part
- A cough or hoarseness for a long time
- Changes in bowel and bladder habits
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Symptoms related to the release of hormones:
- Facial flushing, usually without sweating
- A high level of glucose in the blood is known as hyperglycemia. The body uses glucose, and sugar, to produce energy. Frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger are all symptoms of hyperglycemia.
- Hypoglycemia is characterized by a low blood glucose level. It makes you feel drained, anxious, jittery, and lightheaded.
Treatment for NETs
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and drugs are the available treatments for NETs. Your treatment will depend on:
- The kind of tumor you have and how many there are
- Whether it’s cancerous
- If it has spread to other parts of your body
It is among the most widely used therapies for numerous NETs, some cancers may be removed using it, especially benign ones that have not spread.
A surgeon might remove the tumor itself.
Or they might remove the pancreas, stomach, liver, or even all of the organs with a NET.
For patients who cannot have a typical procedure or have numerous tiny tumors, doctors may also use various types of surgery.
Your doctor may use a probe known as radiofrequency ablation to kill cancer cells in a specific region by directing high-energy radio waves to the tumor.
Another kind, known as cryosurgery, uses a skinny, hollow tube to deliver severe cold directly to a tumor. Your doctor may utilize ultrasounds or MRI images during these procedures to direct the placement of the probe.
It is a standard treatment for carcinoid NETs. It uses a synthetic version of the hormone somatostatin. These drugs keep the tumor from producing hormones that can cause diarrhea and other symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. They might also shrink the tumor.
High-energy X-rays are used in this procedure to eliminate cancer cells. If your tumor has spread or is in an area that can’t be surgically treated, you might receive this treatment.
You’ll, most of the time, get this treatment from a machine outside your body. Sometimes, your doctor can place radiation implants near tumors inside your body.
It uses medication to either eradicate cancer cells or prevent their spread. You either ingest them, or a doctor administers an injection into a vein. You might take a single medication or a combination of several for a few weeks.
They can result in side symptoms like exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, and hair loss, but they go away once your therapy is finished. All chemo medicines have distinct effects on people. What you can do to feel better while receiving therapy might be discussed with your doctor.
Embolism treatment. This can cure NETs that have spread to your liver and that surgeons cannot remove surgically. The intention is to stop the blood supply that supports their growth.
Your doctor will insert a small, flexible tube catheter into the artery that supplies the liver in a medical facility. Then, a chemical will be injected to block the artery. During the operation, you can also receive radiation or chemotherapy.
To eradicate cancer, medications are used that target specific genes or proteins on tumor cells. The healthy cells in your body are less likely to be harmed by this treatment than they would be by chemotherapy or radiation.
First, your doctor will examine cells from your tumor to determine which medication is best for you.
To prevent the growth of NETs, you may also take hormones, heart-slowing medications, and medications that lower stomach acid. And drugs to slow your heart rate and reduce stomach acid.
Clinical trials are on to find new treatments for NETs. It can be new hope for many cancer patients. You can also participate in clinical trials as per your doctor’s suggestion.
Complementary treatment for NETs
You can also try acupuncture, massage, or yoga to help you relax and manage your symptoms while you’re getting treatment. Check with your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Care after treatment
Along with following your treatment, you can also try other things to minimize your symptoms. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, and ask them what you can do to feel better.
NETs can make it challenging to stay at a healthy weight, so focus on choosing the right foods to ensure you’re getting adequate nourishment. Get additional protein from fish, eggs, cheese, and beans.
If you feel sick to your stomach, try eating smaller meals more often, instead of three big ones. Ginger ale might help calm your stomach.
Avoid high-fat foods, sweets, and sugary drinks.
Ask your family and friends for guidance, and solicit their assistance when needed.