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About Neuroendocrine Tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors are rare tumors that develop in cells of the neuroendocrine system which is a network of glands and organs in the body that produce hormones. There are a number of different types of neuroendocrine tumors. The type depends on the particular cells that are affected.  They usually develop in the digestive system

Neuroendocrine tumors usually develop slowly over a number of years and many people may be symptom free at first. Neuroendocrine tumors may be slow growing (low grade)  or rapidly growing  (high grade).  They may be functional (release hormones) or nonfunctional.  When functional neuroendocrine tumors release a variety of hormones including a hormone called serotonin, a condition called carcinoid syndrome may occur.  Symptoms most commonly associated with carcinoid syndrome include flushing, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and cramping.   Patients with carcinoid syndrome may also experience cardiac changes, which are caused from fibrotic damage to the heart.  Usually a patient with carcinoid syndrome does not experience these symptoms until their tumor has spread within the body. 

Treatment of neuroendocrine tumors can be challenging due to the various types, where they present in the body, and the symptoms they produce.  Furthermore, the treatment is complicated by the diverse number of treatment modalities. Treatment modalities include: surgery, liver directed therapy, medications, and radiation. It is important to have a team of healthcare professionals at your side who are experts in treating this disease and who can collaborate together to create a treatment plan individualized to each patient.  Here at Winship we take this multidisciplinary approach to treatment by collaborating amongst expert medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, interventional oncologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists, nurses, and dieticians ( just to name a few) to create a care plan unique to each patient.

Other names that describe neuroendocrine tumors include:

  • Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors - tumors in the gut or pancreas
  • Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors – also known as islet cell cancer, or PNET
  • Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors – tumors that develop in the bowel, stomach or esophagus
  • Pheochromocytoma of the adrenal gland
  • Carcinoid tumors of the lung or intestinal tract
  • Carcinoid Syndrome
  • Gastrinoma, Insulinoma, Glucagonoma, VIPoma (vasoactive intestinal peptide tumor)