April 30, 2020

Neuroendocrine cancer: Everything you need to know


Cancer that killed Irrfan Khan

Famous Bollywood actor, Irrfan Khan, who passed away this on Wednesday, after a case of colon infection was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer in 2018. Neuroendocrine cancer is one form of rare cancer that affects the specialized cells of the body. These mostly include neural and hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine tumors (NET’s) can be found anywhere in the body, however, common occurrences of the tumor include the lungs, pancreas, intestines, and rectum.

Types of NETs

It is easy to classify kinds of neuroendocrine tumors on the basis of where they are located and also how they look like. The most common description is on the basis of the impact they have on the body. Functional NETs cause hormonal disturbances in the body whereas nonfunctional NETs do not cause any or enough hormonal changes to show any symptoms. This is why NETs have a higher chance of going unnoticed until very late. Many times, neuroendocrine cancers are discovered by mistake.

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These put you at risk for developing NETs

Cancer is a mutation in the DNA of the affected cells that forces them to multiple uncontrollably and form said tumors. Risk factors simply increase your chances of forming a neuroendocrine tumor. They do not directly cause cancer, however, they only increase the chances of forming a tumor. However, having a risk factor does not mean that it is necessary you will get a tumor and vice versa. Here are a few risk factors of NETs

Inherited conditions that cause changes in your genes which forces your cells to multiply and cause cancerous tumors

NETs are more common in people above the age of 60.

People with diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract are at a higher risk

Symptoms of NETs

Even though the symptoms vary from the kind of tumor and the place where it is located, general symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss are common for any kind of cancer.

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If you have a nonfunctional tumor you might experience pain in the specific area and might feel a lump beneath your skin. You may also experience nausea and vomiting.

A functional tumor that affects the body’s ability to maintain hormone production might manifest with the following symptoms –



High blood sugar

Skin rash


You need to visit the doctor as soon as you begin experiencing any of these symptoms. Your doctor will use a biopsy or blood and urine tests to help them diagnose the disease. Endoscopies and ultrasounds are also used to find any tumors. Once diagnosed, the treatment can be one or a combination of surgery radiation, chemotherapy, and drugs.