This post is dedicated to a fellow Cancer Campaigns Ambassador, Andy Norris. Andy has suffered from this cancer type for eleven years. He is a very passionate campaigner and I hope this post helps him raise awareness of a cancer type not many people are aware of. This type of cancer comes under the category of “rare cancers” and not much information is available on them. However, I will share everything I have learnt about them with you today.
The Neuroendocrine System:
The Neuroendocrine system is a combination of nerve and gland cells and it makes hormones before releasing them into the blood stream. Basically neuro means nerve and endocrine means the cells of the endocrine system. It is also known as the hormone system as the neuroendocrine system is a network of glands and organs producing hormones within our bodies. Hormones are hugely important as they control how our bodies function, including growth, development, reaction to stress and a wide range of other things.
You will find neuroendocrine cells in many organs including the lungs, pancreas, liver, stomach, both bowels and the oesrophagus as well as the appendix. These cells have different functions depending on where they are with the body. For example, neuroendocrine cells found within the lungs release hormones that control the flow of air and blood in the lungs.
NETs are very rare tumours and they develop within the cells of the neuroendocrine system. There are different types of these tumours and these depend on what body part is affected. These tumours usually take years to develop and do not cause any obvious symptoms at first. It is not uncommon for sufferers of this cancer type to discover the cancer has already spread to another part of the body by the time they are diagnosed.
There are some types of benign (non cancerous) neuroendocrine tumours, as well as malignant (cancerous) ones. Usually the benign tumours are more slow growing then the malignant ones.
There are other names for this cancer type:
*Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP NETs) – found in the gut or pancreas
*Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNETs) – found in the pancreas
*Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumours (GI NETs) – found in the bowel, stomach or oesophagus
*Functioning neuroendocrine tumours (F-NETs)
*Non functioning neuroendocrine tumours (NF-NETs)
Treatment for this cancer type, as with most cancer types, will be dependent on the type of tumour, the stage and grading and whether it has spread to another body part. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy or drug therapy.Some of these tumours can also develop outside the pancreas. For example, gastrinomas have been reported in the medical literature to develop in the ovaries, kidneys, stomach and liver, and not just in the pancreas and small bowel area. NETs that develop in the lung are usually carcinoid tumours.
I hope this blog is informative, and helps Andy raise awareness. Please contact CRUK if you wish to have further information