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Neuroendocrine Tumors

Specialized Care for Neuroendocrine Tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), also known as neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs), are a rare form of cancer, and because of this, few cancer centers in the U.S. have the depth of expertise required to diagnosis and treat them effectively. At University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, we have a highly skilled team of neuroendocrine cancer specialists who can provide you or your loved one with advanced cancer treatment and care for these rare neuroendocrine tumors.

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What is a neuroendocrine tumor?

A neuroendocrine tumor is formed from cells releasing hormones in response to a signal from the nervous system. Types of NETs include carcinoid tumors – which commonly develop in the digestive track, lungs, appendix, lymph nodes and other areas – and islet cell tumors (pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, or pNETs) – which typically develop in the pancreas.

Neuroendocrine Tumor Symptoms

Because a neuroendocrine neoplasm may produce higher amounts of different types of hormones, it may cause many different symptoms. Carcinoid tumors usually do not have symptoms in the early stages, however the most common NET symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia and fatigue
  • Intestinal blockage, which cause nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain and change in bowel habits
  • Intestinal bleeding, which may cause blood in the stool or black, tarry stool

When a neuroendocrine neoplasm spreads to the liver, it can cause a group of symptoms called carcinoid syndrome. These symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Advanced Diagnosis and Treatment for Neuroendocrine Cancer

At UH, we employ leading-edge technologies and techniques to accurately diagnose neuroendocrine neoplasms. Every NET case is reviewed by our team of neuroendocrine tumor experts, who work together to develop a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan based on the unique characteristics of your neuroendocrine cancer.

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Risk Factors for Neuroendocrine Cancer

In general, the actual reason neuroendocrine cancer develops is unknown; however, the following factors may raise a person’s risk for developing a neuroendocrine tumor:

  • Inherited syndromes, such as:
    • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and type 2 (MEN2)
    • Neurofibromatosis type 1
    • Tuberous sclerosis complex
    • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
  • Conditions that affect how the stomach makes digestive juices, including:
    • Atrophic gastritis
    • Pernicious anemia
    • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Race/ethnicity: African-Americans are more likely to develop carcinoid tumors in certain areas of the body than Caucasians
  • Gender: NETs are slightly more common in women than in men
  • Age: A person of any age can develop a neuroendocrine tumor, however, children rarely develop NETs
  • Smoking tobacco

Neuroendocrine Cancer Research and Clinical Trials

UH Seidman Cancer Center is one of the leading gastrointestinal tumors research centers in the U.S. As part of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, our research team received two National Cancer Institute (NCI) SPORE grants to study GI malignancies, including GI neuroendocrine tumors. The grants helped establish the GI Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) at Case Western Reserve University, one of only seven such programs in the country.

Additionally, we offer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, which not only give patients access to new and innovative therapies for neuroendocrine cancer, but help our NET researchers better understand the disease and how to treat it.