Dr Arthur Richardson - Hepato-Biliary, Upper Gastro-Intestinal and General Surgeon Associate Professor,University of Sydney
 
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Neuroendocrine Tumours

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) arise from neuroendocrine cells which are present in endocrine glands as well as many other organs in the body. A tumour is an abnormal growth of these cells in an organ of the body. They can be benign or malignant and it can often be difficult to decide a tumour’s malignant potential. Carcinoid tumour is an outdated term used to describe a particular type of neuroendocrine tumour. The most common sites include the gastro-intestinal tract but can involve the pancreas, liver and other organs.

Causes and incidence

The exact cause is unknown. They are relatively rare tumours with an incidence of about 2.5 cases per 100,000 population per year. Certain genetic or inherited conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndromes, neurofibromatosis and Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome may predispose to NETs.

Symptoms

These may be non-specific, but may include flushing, diarhorrea and weight loss.

Diagnosis

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • CT scan
  • Octreotide scan – this is a specialised nuclear study
  • PET scan – this is occasionally indicated in certain types of tumours
  • Gastroscopy and colonoscopy – may be indicated in GIT NET tumours

Treatment

This will depend on the type and extent of the tumour and treatment will usually be directed by a multi-disciplinary team, which may include surgeons, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, medical oncologists and radiotherapists. Treatment will often involve surgical removal of the tumour.

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