Neuroendocrine refers to structures or functions that are both part of the nervous system and the endocrine, or hormonal, system. Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) arise from specialized cells, called neuroendocrine cells, that share characteristics of both nerve and hormone-producing cells and are present in all body tissues. Because of this, neuroendocrine tumors can develop anywhere in the body, but, in most cases, are found in these organs:

  • Appendix
  • Small intestine
  • Rectum
  • Pancreas
  • Lung
  • Thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands

Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and tumors are usually benign (noncancerous). There are many types of NETs and they are typically characterized and treated based on the tumor location, if the tumor cells demonstrate excess hormone production, or if it has spread to other parts of the body. Different types of NETS may cause symptoms known as carcinoid syndrome, which is most common if it has spread to the liver. These symptoms include:

  • Flushing or redness in the face and neck
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain, cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Wheezing, coughing

Diagnosis is based upon unique features of the tumor itself, as well as screening the blood and urine for excess production of substances known as catecholamines. Treatment may include:

  • Somatostatin analogues
  • Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy and radiofrequency ablation
  • Surgery and gastrointestinal procedures
  • Pain management
  • Nutrition therapy