World Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness Day – 10th November
World Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness Day is observed every year on 10th November to raise awareness on Neuroendocrine cancer and voice the needs for better diagnostics, information, and medical research in the field.
What is Neuroendocrine Cancer?
Neuroendocrine Cancer, or Neuroendocrine tumors (NET) as it is commonly known, is the cancer that attacks the body’s neuroendocrine system. The neuroendocrine system is spread throughout the body and controls many bodily functions. The neuroendocrine system receives messages from the brain and makes hormones accordingly, which controls several bodily functions. These cells have traits of both hormone-producing endocrine cells and nerve cells.
All neuroendocrine cancers/ tumors are considered malignant and take several years to develop and show symptoms. However, there are also cases of fast-growing neuroendocrine cancers.
Neuroendocrine cancers can begin in any part of the body including the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, or pancreas. Neuroendocrine cancers are most commonly seen in the GI tract, with 19% of total Neuroendocrine cases seen in the small intestine, 20% in the large intestine, and 4 % in the appendix. Neuroendocrine cancer in the lungs accounts for 30% of the total cases while that in the pancreas accounts for 7% of the total cases. Neuroendocrine cancers are also seen in other organs, and in about 15% of the cases, a definite primary site cannot be found.
Neuroendocrine Cancer Symptoms
Neuroendocrine cancers usually show very minimal symptoms and hence are very hard to diagnose. Since Neuroendocrine cancers commonly grow at a very gradual pace, it takes several years to develop, and hence the symptoms are not sudden, making it harder to notice. When the symptoms are visible, they resemble that of common conditions, thereby leading to inaccurate diagnosis. The symptoms will also depend upon the size and location of the tumor.
The common neuroendocrine cancer symptoms are:
- Pain in any area
- Growing lump under the skin
- Excessive fatigue
- Abnormal loss of weight
Since neuroendocrine cancers affect the production of hormones, some symptoms are caused due to excessive hormones. These symptoms are:
- Skin flushing
- Excessive thirst
- Urge of urination
- Skin rashes
Neuroendocrine Cancer Causes
While research is ongoing, the exact cause of Neuroendocrine cancer is still to be found out. But several genetic risk factors have been found to be linked to neuroendocrine cancers. These are:
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 and 2
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Tuberous sclerosis
Neuroendocrine Cancer Diagnosis
Since neuroendocrine cancers show minimal to no symptoms and generally take several years to develop, most neuroendocrine patients are diagnosed when they conduct an X-Ray or other medical procedures unrelated to the cancer. Apart from physical examination, a doctor may advise several Diagnostic Tests like:
- Blood/Urine tests
- Ultrasound/ CT scan/ X-ray/ MRI scan
- PET scan
- Nuclear medicine imaging
Neuroendocrine Cancer Treatment
The treatment options of Neuroendocrine cancer depends upon several factors such as the type of tumor, its location and size, and whether the patient is experiencing symptoms due to excessive hormones produced.
The general neuroendocrine Cancer Treatment options are:
- Targeted drug therapy
- Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Medicines for excess hormones
Need for Awareness
The main objective of observing November 10 as Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness Day is to raise awareness of this type of cancer since these cancers are frequently misdiagnosed. A report by Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness Network shows that in more than 90% of the cases, neuroendocrine cancer patients are wrongly diagnosed and treated. They also state that the average time from the initial onset of symptoms to proper diagnosis exceeds five years. These numbers can go down only with the public getting familiarised with the symptoms and signs of neuroendocrine cancer. Raising awareness will also ensure increased medical research funding, which can help find the cause, create a diagnostic test, and even a possible cure for this cancer type.