Neuroendocrine tumors are abnormal growths that begin in neuroendocrine cells, which are similar to nerve cells and to hormone-producing cells. These tumors grow in the organs of the neuroendocrine system, causing them to produce abnormal amounts of hormones, which then affect how the nervous system works.
Neuroendocrine tumors can be non-cancerous or cancerous. They are rare and can occur anywhere in the body, but most often are found in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum and pancreas.
At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, our endocrine specialists treat several types of neuroendocrine tumors including:
- Insulinomma: a tumor of the pancreas that is derived from beta cells and secretes insulin; rare and most often benign.
- VIPoma (Verner Morrison syndrome): a rare endocrine tumor originating from non-β islet cell of the pancreas, which produces vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP).
- Pheochromocytoma: a tumor of the adrenal gland.
- Carcinoid: tumors of the lung, intestinal tract or thymus.
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma: a form of thyroid cancer that comes from the C-cells of the thyroid, which produce a hormone called calcitonin.
- Adrenal cancer: a rare form of cancer that develops in the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys; most are non-cancerous and develop in the outer layer of the adrenal glands called the cortex.
- Paraganglioma: a rare adrenaline-producing tumor outside the adrenal gland that may develop at various body sites, including the head, neck, thorax and abdomen.
- Islet cell cancer (pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor):a neuroendocrine tumor that arises in the pancreas.
Treatment of a neuroendocrine tumor depends on the type of tumor, its location, whether it produces excess hormones, how aggressive it is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Our specialists take a multidisciplinary approach to care and work together with other medical specialists to provide comprehensive treatment including oncologists, gastroenterologists, and surgeons.
Treatment options for neuroendocrine tumors often include:
- Surgery to remove all or most of the tumor.
- Chemotherapy, in cases where tumors have spread to the liver.
- Medication to help stop the tumor from growing and to regulate hormone production.
- Removing a portion of the liver, in cases where tumors have spread to the liver.