At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, we are dedicated to providing you with high quality care with comprehensive testing, diagnosis and treatment options that are suited for you. Our gastrointestinal cancer specialists are here to ensure you receive exceptional personalized care.
Neuroendocrine tumors are rare cancers that originate in specific cells within the body’s neuroendocrine system, called neuroendocrine cells. These specialized cells have properties of both endocrine and nerve cells that control hormone production and nerve function and help control many of the body’s functions. While many other types of tumors can be benign (not harmful) or malignant (cancerous), neuroendocrine (NETs) tumors are always malignant. The majority of neuroendocrine tumors are slow-growing cancers and can take several years to develop, while other neuroendocrine tumors can spread more quickly.
Neuroendocrine tumors can grow in any part of the body, but the most common location is in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which begins at the esophagus and ends at the anus, and plays a large role in digesting food and liquid, and processing waste. Thirty-nine percent of these tumors occur in the small intestine, 15% in the rectum and a small percentage occur in the appendix, colon and stomach.
GI tract neuroendocrine tumors often go undetected in their early stages and are usually found during an unrelated surgery or x-ray for a different condition. In later stages, symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, skin sores, constipation, nausea, unexplained weight loss or mental disturbances.
The typical age of diagnosis is older adults between 55-65. Cases of neuroendocrine tumors in children are rare. It is slightly more common in women than in men.
While there are no known direct causes for neuroendocrine tumors, the risk for getting these tumors are higher with those that have diseases that damage the stomach and reduce acid production. Those that have a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), including lung neuroendocrine tumors, GI tract neuroendocrine tumors and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) and tuberous sclerosis complex also have a greater risk of developing neuroendocrine tumors.
If you are experiencing any symptoms, our GI Cancer specialists will use several tests to search for and diagnose your neuroendocrine tumor cancer. The diagnostic tests used are determined by several factors, including the type of neuroendocrine tumor that is suspected, signs and symptoms, your age and general health and the results of previous medical tests. If a neuroendocrine tumor is detected, the experts at Banner MD Anderson will utilize a variety of tests to determine if the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, including blood/urine tests, biopsies, molecular testing and various scans.
At Banner MD Anderson, we take an integrative approach to ensure we provide you with comprehensive, quality care. Several factors are taken into consideration in determining the team of specialists that will treat you and may include: medical and radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists and nuclear medicine and genetics specialists.