About Neuroendocrine Cancer

Neuroendocrine cancer begins in the specialised cells of the neuroendocrine system that have the features of both hormone-producing and nerve cells. Since neuroendocrine cells are present in different body tissues, these tumours can occur anywhere, including the Gastrointestinal tract, Lung, Pancreas. Neuroendocrine cancer can occur in people of any age and gender and can be functional (tumours that produce hormones) and non-functional (tumours that do not produce hormones). Neuroendocrine cancer treatment options depend upon the type of tumour and its hormone-producing nature. Though they are rare, neuroendocrine cancer life expectancy five years after diagnosis is a little over 50%.


The hormone produced by a neuroendocrine tumour depends upon the part of the body it is in. Due to this, the symptoms of neuroendocrine cancers can differ. Common symptoms of this cancer may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Pain in a specific area of the body (usually where the tumour is present).
  • A lump or abnormal growth in a particular part of the body.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Changes in bowel and bladder movements.
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge.
  • Increased blood sugar levels are characterised by frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger.
  • Decreased blood sugar levels.
  • Skin rash.
  • Jaundice.
  • A persistent cough that does not go away.


Since neuroendocrine cancers are rare, it is often difficult to diagnose them. Your doctor may recommend a series of tests to help diagnose your condition and evaluate various neuroendocrine cancer treatment options

Diagnostic tests that may be advised to diagnose your neuroendocrine cancer include:

  • Blood tests.
  • Urine tests: These tests detect the presence and amount of 5-HIAA, common in some types of neuroendocrine tumours.
  • Endoscopy: To detect abnormal growth in the gastrointestinal system.
  • Imaging tests including a CT scan, PET scan and MRI.
  • Biomarker tests for the tumour: These tests help detect the presence of biomarkers or specific proteins released by certain types of neuroendocrine tumours.
  • Nuclear medicine imaging.
  • Biopsy: A small amount of tissue is collected for laboratory examination. However, if the tumour is suspected to be a pheochromocytoma, a biopsy is not recommended.

Evaluating the results of the diagnostic tests and presenting signs and symptoms can help your doctor and healthcare team determine how to treat neuroendocrine cancer.


Neuroendocrine cancer treatment options depend upon several factors, including:

  • Site of the tumour.
  • Hormone-producing nature of the tumour.
  • Stage and grade of the tumour.
  • Patient’s age and overall health.

A multidisciplinary team will usually manage your neuroendocrine cancer treatment. Surgery is the standard treatment option for this cancer, especially for lung, pancreas, and gut neuroendocrine cancer. In some cases, additional treatments or combination treatments may be required after surgery for neuroendocrine cancer.

Other treatments for neuroendocrine cancers, if surgery is not an option, are:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy and neuroendocrine cancer are presumed to cause side effects. However, this treatment can be effective and combined with other therapies.
  • Use of somatostatin analogues: Depending upon the type of neuroendocrine cancer, drugs to prevent the production of somatostatin, a hormone made by the hypothalamus, stomach, pancreas and bowel.
  • Targeted therapy.
  • Immunotherapy.
  • Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT).
  • Radiation therapy.
  • NanoKnife.

Stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer is the advanced stage of the condition and is treated differently based upon the tumour’s location.

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