Neuroendocrine Tumors

The brain and the nervous system provide the signals to the endocrine system to produce hormones that regulate bodily functions. Since these two systems are so interdependent, they are often referred to as the neuroendocrine system. Tumors that affect the functioning of cells within this system are collectively called neuroendocrine tumors.

The primary types of neuroendocrine tumors are:

  • Pheochromocytoma, which affects production of adrenaline and often presents in the adrenal glands.
  • Neuroendocrine tumors, which is a generic term for tumors that affect hormones in major organs (such as the pancreas).

Risk Factors

People are at a higher risk for developing neuroendocrine tumors because of certain factors. These may include:

  • Gender; men are more likely than women to develop Pheochromocytoma
  • Age; Pheochromocytoma patients are generally between 40 – 60 years old
  • Genetics

Symptoms

Each variation of neuroendocrine tumor presents specific symptoms.

  • Pheochromocytoma
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Damp and sticky skin
    • Unusual anxiety
    • Heart palpitations
    • Nausea, headaches, fever
  • Neuroendocrine Carcinoma:
    • Hyper or hypoglycemia
    • Unusual weight changes
    • Unusual anxiety
    • Unexplained lumps
    • Jaundice
    • Unexplained bleeding
    • Unusual bowel or bladder changes
    • Ongoing night sweats

Diagnosis

Doctors can detect the presence of neuroendocrine tumors in the following ways:

  1. Biopsy: This is the most definitive diagnostic method. Doctors examine tissue samples for evidence of a tumor.
  2. Blood and Urine Tests: The levels of hormones produced under certain circumstances are present in blood and urine and are indicative of possible tumors.
  3. Imaging: With a CT scan, MR scan, or X-ray, the doctor can usually verify the existence of a neuroendocrine tumor, as well as determine its exact size and placement.

A Diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Tumor 

After examining the results of one or more of these tests, your doctor may inform you that you have a neuroendocrine tumor. Treatment is based on where the tumor is located, how big it is, whether it is metastasizing and the patient's general health.

Treatment

The primary types of treatment for neuroendocrine tumors include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

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