Irrfan Khan, a legendary Bollywood actor and a global artist, famous for his effortless acting in critically acclaimed movies like Maqbool and Life of Pi, passed away on Wednesday. He was admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital for a colon infection. For two years, Irrfan Khan had been battling a neuroendocrine tumor. It’s time we knew a little more about this particular cancer, and could we win our battle against it.
What is Neuroendocrine Cancer?
Neuroendocrine Cancer involves the formation of a tumor in the body’s neuroendocrine cells. These cells may mainly be nerve cells or responsible for producing hormones. Hormones are imperative for the normal functioning of the body and are carried to their target organs through the bloodstream.
A neuroendocrine tumor is often malignant. Usually, cancer takes a long time to develop and show symptoms, but sometimes they may also proliferate. These tumors can develop in almost any part of the body, including, but not limited to, the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and pancreas.
Diagnosis and treatment would depend on the site of origin, as well as the type. These tumors could lead to a release of excess hormones or not enough. It is more difficult to identify symptoms in the latter case.
What are the Symptoms and Signs?
Apart from the general symptoms of cancer, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and unreasonable weight loss, there are many symptoms and signs specific to neuroendocrine tumors.
General symptoms of a neuroendocrine tumor:-
- Acute Pain in a specific area
- Growing lump under your skin
- Nausea, frequent vomiting
- Changes in bowels, bladder habits
- Unusual bleeding
- Unusual discharge
- Persistent cough or hoarseness
Symptoms of neuroendocrine tumor, caused by an excess of hormones:-
- Flushed face
- Hyperglycemia (high glucose level in blood)
- Hypoglycemia (low glucose level in blood)
- Skin rash
Why does it happen?
As of now, no exact reasons are known that could explain the formation of a neuroendocrine tumor. Due to internal or external reasons, neuroendocrine cells undergo mutation. Their DNA cells abnormally multiply without decaying, and this causes the formation of cancer. While sometimes these tumors spread slowly, others are aggressive and metastasize quickly.
What is the procedure for its diagnosis?
If there’s any suspicion of a neuroendocrine tumor, your doctor may ask you to get the following tests done:
- Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination is the preliminary form of diagnosis.
- Biopsy: A small amount of tissue will be taken for further examination by a pathologist. It must be noted that tumors suspected to be of pheochromocytoma nature, are never biopsied.
- Blood and urine tests: Your blood or urine, or both, may be checked to identify abnormal levels of hormones, such as serotonin.
- Endoscopy: This test will allow the doctor to see the inside of your body. A thin, flexible, lighted tube will be inserted into your body.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging: An MRI test is used to gauge the size of the tumor.
- CAT Scan: A CAT Scan uses X-rays to form three-dimensional images of any tumors or anomalies in your body.
These tests are often used in combination.
If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult a doctor immediately. The sudden demise of Irrfan Khan has been able to create awareness about the dangers of neuroendocrine cancer. We must keep doing regular check-ups to ensure avoiding such underlying dangers. Stay positive and stay aware.