Coping with treatment of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Summary

Patients with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) face major challenges whilst undergoing treatment for cancer. Some of the common difficulties faced by the patients due to NETs treatment includes coping with the treatment of cancer, emotional and mental aspects of cancer treatment, and the financial burden of cancer treatment.

Introduction

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are not easy to treat. People often think they know what cancer is, but NETs are different from other tumors. They may have persistent symptoms and treatments that others do not understand. The patient might think they need to explain to people what this means.

It is important to give time to oneself. Adapting to the major changes in the life of the patients is never easy and can take time. There is no good way to combat carcinoid syndrome. Someone has to find a way that works best for the patient.

Hospitals can also help patients by providing support. Ask the nurse or doctor about the assistance available to the patients. They can refer to a local support group near them where they can discuss their feelings and fears with others who have ideas about their cancer experiences.

It can be helpful to talk to people in similar situations. However, finding others with rare tumors can be difficult.

Coping with the pain of NET and the associated treatment

Patients diagnosed with NET and their family members can have social and emotional consequences after being diagnosed with cancer. This can include overcoming various emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, or managing stress levels. Sometimes it gets difficult for the family members to express their feelings toward a loved one. Patients treated with chemotherapy for NET may experience various side effects such as fatigue, hair loss, and loss of appetite. The side effects of chemotherapy can cause several psychological and physical problems, such as pain from newly diagnosed cancer, a decline in the patient’s physical and role functions, and increased depression. Many participants who had difficulty adhering to cancer treatment reported increased pain and treatment fatigue over time, including taking part in daily treatment, maintaining treatment adherence, and side effects of treatment. The side effects of cancer treatment are the most common cause of suffering and a significant contributor to non-compliance with cancer treatment. All cancer survivors live with the fear that cancer may recur or spread (metastasis). Some may also develop secondary cancer. Regular monitoring, screening and reporting of symptoms to the doctor can help detect new or metastatic cancer at an early stage. Chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapy may increase the risk for long-term dental problems, hypothyroidism, infertility, organ damage, neuropathy, osteoporosis and diabetes. Cancer treatment may lead to comorbidities associated with endocrine changes such as Decreased sex drive, Memory loss, Anemia, Decreased muscle mass, Depression, Weight gain, Loss of body hair​1​.

Coping with Mental/Emotional side effects of NET

People diagnosed with NET can have social and emotional consequences after being diagnosed with cancer. This can include overcoming various emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, or managing stress levels. Sometimes it is difficult for patients to express their feelings toward a loved one. Some people have found that talking to an oncology counsellor, social worker, or member of the clergy can help them develop more effective coping with cancer.

The most common emotional problems that cancer patients may experience include fear of recurrence of cancer, depression and grief due to cancer and its treatment, social stigma due to deformities, amputations, or significant changes in body function.

Coping with the financial burden of NET

“Financial toxicity” has become a well-known term in the discussion of cancer drugs and treatment. The rising medication prices, health insurance costs, and other disease management expenses of NET in recent decades have been a rising problem for NET patients’ family members and caregivers.

Coping with carcinoid syndrome

Carcinoid syndrome and its complications can be intractable. The patient may experience persistent symptoms that are difficult to control, such as diarrhea and flushing.

In addition to the treatments suggested by the doctor, the doctor can do other things to help relieve symptoms. The hospital may also provide practical support and help for the patients and their families.

Coping with flushing of the skin

It can be helpful to record the skin flushes to see if anything is bothering the patient. For example, some people believe that stress can be the cause.

Other common causes include:

  • drinking caffeine or alcohol
  • foods containing a substance called tyramine, such as chocolate, walnuts, and bananas.
  • overeating or spicy food
  • Avoiding the causes of skin flushing can help control it

Coping with diarrhoea

A lot of fluid is lost during diarrhoea. Fluid exchange is important to prevent dehydration. Patients should drink a little more often and try to drink at least 2-3 litres per day.

Eating a high-fibre diet is considered healthy, but it can make diarrhoea worse. Oily and greasy foods can also make the condition worse. Some foods, such as rice, biscuits, and pasta, can make stools firmer, so try them.

Prolonged diarrhoea can reduce vitamin levels in the body. The doctor may ask the patient to take a vitamin supplement to prevent this from happening​2​.

References

  1. 1.
    Zizinia S. Life After Cancer. Social & Emotional Impacts of Cancer. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Published 2022. Accessed March 2022. https://www.mdanderson.org/patients-family/life-after-cancer/social-emotional-impacts.html
  2. 2.
    Coping with carcinoid syndrome. cancer research uk. Published 2021. Accessed March 2022. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/neuroendocrine-tumours-nets/living-with/carcinoid-syndrome