The neuroendocrine system consists of the nervous system and the endocrine system. Both systems are made of neuroendocrine cells that are located throughout your body. Neuroendocrine cells can sometimes turn into cancer and become neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). These tumors are cancerous (malignant), range in size and differ in their rate of growth. NETs are generally slow growing and can sometimes produce excess hormones. There are also fast growing and aggressive neuroendocrine tumors.
Neuroendocrine tumors are rare (often referred to as an orphan disease), hard to find and difficult to diagnose. It is important to seek a doctor who is knowledgeable about neuroendocrine tumors to ensure a proper and timely diagnosis.
A neuroendocrine tumor often begins in the digestive tract, in particular the pancreas, as it has more neuroendocrine cells than any other part of your body. NETs also can be present in the appendix, lungs, ovaries, rectum, small intestine and testes.
Types of Neuroendocrine Tumors
There are many specific types of neuroendocrine tumors. They include the following:
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- Gastroenteropancreatic NET (GEP-NET)
- Islet cell
- Gastrinoma, glucagonoma, insulinoma
- Merkel cell carcinoma
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma
- Small-cell lung carcinoma