Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes asymptomatic, they can secrete abnormally high amounts of hormones that affect body functions and can cause digestive system problems, weight loss and flushing (redness of the skin and hot flushes). Learn more about this rare endocrine disease, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.
Diverse and slow-growing, marked by remissions and recurrence over what can sometimes be a very long time (years or even decades), there are a variety of treatment options for NETs. Patients with a neuroendocrine tumor may undergo three, four or even more types of treatment in their lifetime.
The main treatments are:
- Surgery to remove the tumor, or if tumors have spread, to reduce the size. A radical treatment, the surgical option should always be discussed in multidisciplinary meetings of experts in NETs.
- Chemotherapy is administered intermittently, in cycles, to destroy the tumor cells. It can be used alone or in combination with surgery.
- Embolization (obstructing an artery to block blood supply to the tumor so that it dies) and radio frequency are used very occasionally, specifically for local treatment in cases of liver cancer.
- Somatostatin analogs (synthetic equivalents of the hormone somatostatin) is often used as a continuous treatment regimen.
- Targeted therapies
- Internal vectorized radiotherapy that attaches to the somatostatin receptors
In some cases, when the tumor is asymptomatic and is not growing, or only very slowly, and when it has not been possible to remove it completely, patients receive no medical or surgical treatment and are simply monitored through lab, radiology and clinical tests. Whether or not treatment was received for the tumor,patients need regular follow-up by specialists in dedicated, NET centers.
people in the United States have1 GEP-NETs.
new cases per 100,000 people per year2
Around age 653
the average age at the time of diagnosis
1 Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors: American Cancer Society Website: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003102-pdf.pdf. Accessed October 28, 2014
2 Niederle MB, Hackl M, Kaserer K, Niederle B. Gastroenteropancreatic neuro-endocrine tumours: the current incidence and staging based on the WHO and European Neuro-endocrine Tumour Society classifi cation: an analysis based on prospectively collected parameters. Endocr Relat Cancer 2010;17(4):909-18
3Lepage C, Bouvier AM, Phelip JM, Hatem C, Vernet C, Faivre J. Incidence and management of malignant digestive endocrine tumours in a well defi ned French population. Gut 2004; 53(4):549-53