Neuroendocrine Tumours - Diagnosis & Treatment

How are neuroendocrine tumours diagnosed?

Your doctor will recommend diagnostic tests based on the site of your tumour. In general, one or more of the following tests may be conducted to confirm your diagnosis:

  • Physical examination. Based on your symptoms, your doctor will carefully examine your body.
  • Blood and urine tests. These are used to check for any abnormalities in the amount of a particular enzyme, protein or hormone.
  • Imaging tests. These include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans, and positron emission testing (PET) scans. These tests produce clear images of the organs and tissues and help to detect the tumour size and its spread to other parts of the body.
  • Biopsy. It involves collecting a tissue sample and examining it under a microscope for cancerous cells.

How are neuroendocrine tumours treated?

Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on factors such as:

  • Primary site of the tumour
  • Whether it produces hormones (functional or not)
  • Its stage and grade (how quickly the cells are dividing)
  • Its spread to other parts of the body

Common treatment options for NETs include:

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to get rid of the tumour or to ease symptoms in advanced cases. Surgery involves removal of the entire tumour from the site along with some surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Chemotherapy. It uses drugs to destroy cancerous cells, and is recommended in advanced cases where the cancer has spread and surgery is not an option. Your doctor will share with you a chemotherapy regimen that includes administration of a single drug or a combination of drugs in a specific number of cycles over a period of time.
  • Radiation therapy. It uses strong energy rays to kill the cancer cells. It is recommended for palliative treatment of painful bone metastases or brain metastases.
  • Targeted therapy. It uses drugs that target certain proteins or genes on the tumour to kill cancer cells. This therapy limits damage to the healthy cells.
  • Hormone therapy. In this therapy, somatostatin analogues are used. is a This man-made version of somatostatin is used to prevent the body from making too many hormones and to slow the growth of the NET.
  • Immunotherapy. It is also known as biologic therapy and aims to boost the body's natural defense system to fight against the tumour.
  • Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy. It involves a combination of a drug with a radioactive substance. The radioactive drug acts by binding to the somatostatin receptor that is present on cells of certain tumours. It is recommended in advanced gastrointestinal tract and pancreatic NETs.
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