What are Neuroendocrine Tumors?
A neuroendocrine tumor is the abnormal growth that is seen in the special cells called neuroendocrine cells. These are cells that share several functions with nerve cells and the hormone-producing (endocrine) cells.
These are rare tumors and can occur anywhere inside the body. Mostly, the neuroendocrine tumors begin in the lungs, small intestine, appendix, pancreas and the rectum. These tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) in nature.
What are the types of Neuroendocrine Tumors?
There are several types of neuroendocrine tumors; however, three of these are more common than the others. These are:
Pheochromocytoma – This is a rare form of tumor that originates in the chromaffin cells of the adrenal gland. These are specialized cells that release the adrenal hormones during stressful situations. This tumor (cancer) causes excessive production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which results in the increase in blood pressure and the heart rate as well. Although, this tumor is mostly benign (non-cancerous) it may still be a fatal threat due to excessive production of adrenaline after an injury.
Merkel Cell Cancer – This is also called as ‘neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin’ (trabular cancer) and is one of the swiftly-developing and rare cancers. It originates in the hormone producing (endocrinal) cells situated just beneath the skin as well as in the hair follicles. It is mostly found in the neck and head region.
Neuroendocrine Carcinoma – Around 60% of all neuroendocrine tumors are identified collectively as neuroendocrine carcinoma. These are mostly found affecting the lungs, brain as well as the gastrointestinal tract.
What are the risk factors leading towards Neuroendocrine Tumors?
These are the various risk factors that can increase the risk of development of neuroendocrine tumors in a person:
- Age – A person between the ages of 40 and 60 years in more likely to acquire Pheochromocytoma while people over the age of 70 years are more at risk of developing Merkel cell cancer.
- Gender – Men are prone to develop neuroendocrine tumors than women.
- Race – White (Caucasian) people are more at risk of developing Merkel cell cancer while people of African and Polynesian descent are at a lesser risk comparatively.
- Heredity – Around 10% of all Pheochromocytoma cases are linked to genetics.
- Immune Suppression – People who have undergone an organ transplant, and people affected with the HIV and have developed AIDS are more at risk of developing neuroendocrine tumors.
- Exposure to Arsenic – The risk of Merkel cell cancer is increased due to prolonged exposure to arsenic poison.
- Exposure to Sun – Merkel cell cancer risk is also considered to increase with prolonged exposure to sun.
What are the signs and symptoms of Neuroendocrine Tumors?
These are the common signs and symptoms of neuroendocrine tumors:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Anxiety attacks
- Excessive sweating
- High pulse rate
- Clammy skin
- Heart palpitation
Merkel Cell Cancer
- Shiny, firm and painless bumps on the skin with red, blue or pink colored texture
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar level)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level)
- Chronic pain in specific area
- Constant hoarseness and cough
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Lump in any part of the body
- Infrequency in bowel and bladder habits
- Unexplained weight gain/loss
- Persistent night sweats and fever
- Unusual discharge and bleeding
- Skin rash
- Gastric ulcer disease
It is advisable to consult an experienced doctor in case a person experiences any of these symptoms.
How is Neuroendocrine Tumor diagnosed?
There are several tests that are used to diagnose and determine the type of neuroendocrine tumor as well as other details. Certain tests are helpful in determining the best-suited treatment for the particular case of neuroendocrine tumor.
The initial diagnosis of a neuroendocrine tumor is done through a physical examination.
The doctor might also perform these tests:
Urine/Blood Tests – These tests help to determine the level of hormones and other substances in the bloodstream and the urine. Abnormally increased adrenaline levels in the body can be effectively detected using a urine test.
X-Ray Test – This imaging diagnostic test helps to check for abnormal growths inside the body.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan – This diagnostic imaging test produces a 3-D image of the internal organs to give a detailed and magnified cross-sectional view of the structure inside the body. This is helpful in determining the size of the tumors.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Test – This imaging test uses magnetic-fields to create a detailed image of the body. This is also helpful in measuring the size of the neuroendocrine tumor in any area of the body effectively.
Biopsy – This diagnostic test includes removing a small sample of the tumor tissue (using a thin and long needle) for detailed analysis at the pathology laboratory. This test helps to determine the specific proteins, genes and other factors that are developing the tumor (cancerous cells).
How are Neuroendocrine Tumors treated?
These are the commonly used methods for neuroendocrine tumor treatment:
This is the main types of treatment method for treating Merkel cell cancer and Pheochromocytoma. This method requires the surgeon to remove the tumor as well as a margin of the surrounding healthy tissue to prevent recurrence of the cancer. Often, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery might be used to treat Pheochromocytoma tumors.
This treatment method uses high-energy beams of radiation that are very precise, to target and destroy the cancerous cells from outside the body (non-invasive method). This treatment is most often advised when the neuroendocrine tumor has spread to other surrounding areas of the body, or if it is in a location which is not accessible for surgery.
This treatment method uses medicinal drugs to target and destroy the cancer cells. These drugs are specially designed to target the cells’ growth and division abilities. This therapy can administer the medicinal drugs using oral or intravenous methods (using injections or a catheter drip).
Why choose Travcure for Neuroendocrine Tumors Treatment in India?
India is home to the world’s largest network of global-class healthcare facilities that are spread over its major cities, such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Delhi, etc. These are truly modern healthcare facilities that are equipped with the most advanced and high-tech medical and surgical equipments. Travcure is well-connected to this vast network of cancer-specialty hospitals and clinics to ensure that every patient receives the best and most effective treatment. Travcure offers its patients with a bespoke treatment package for neuroendocrine tumors in India at the most affordable cost.