What is Neuroendocrine Cancer?

September 14, 2021
What is Neuroendocrine Cancer?

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jake Prigoff.

There are many ways and places that cancer can strike. The sheer variety of cancer patients help us understand that there is no singular kind of cancer - rather it is a condition that can affect any of our cells, anywhere in the body, as they begin to mutate and grow in unwanted ways.

Some forms of cancer are publicized quite a bit - like breast cancer. While breast cancer uses a ubiquitous pink ribbon as its symbol, neuroendocrine cancer uses a more enigmatic zebra-striped ribbon. This is supposed to represent its rarity, drawing on the old medical saying - “If you hear hooves, you think horses, not zebras”. However, there are still many cancer patients who suffer from this condition. This piece will be a quick guide to explain what neuroendocrine cancer really is.

What Does Neuroendocrine Mean?

Some cancers are easier to understand than others. . We can wrap our heads around the idea of cancer in breasts, brains, or bladders. But what is a neuroendocrine tumor?

Neuroendocrine cells are a very specialized kind of cell in the body. They get their name because they work somewhat like neurons (they can receive signals like nerves) but also somewhat like endocrine cells (they can produce hormones).

These cells help in a variety of bodily functions, including our digestion, our breathing, and our blood pressure. Just like other cells in our body, these cells can become cancerous - this results in neuroendocrine tumors.

Where Are the Symptoms of Neuroendocrine Cancer?

Neuroendocrine tumors are most often found in the lungs, pancreas, appendix, intestine, or rectum. Neuroendocrine tumors will affect the levels of hormones that healthy neuroendocrine cells normally produce. This could mean that these cells suddenly produce too much of a hormone, or not enough. This can lead to a variety of effects within the body - diarrhea, ulcers, skin rashes, and flushed skin. They can also affect blood sugar levels, leading to abnormal levels of hunger or thirst, or dizziness and fainting. They may also cause feelings of anxiety or confusion.

Neuroendocrine cancer has a fairly high survival rate if it is detected early and if the neuroendocrine tumors remain localized. However, because it is rare,  and because its symptoms often have to do with hormone levels rather than the tumor itself, it may be difficult to recognize. Neuroendocrine tumors are often small and are difficult to find. 

There are a growing number of ways to detect neuroendocrine cancer, but it is not often specifically screened for unless a patient has a family with a history of this kind of cancer. If you find yourself feeling ill with any of the symptoms given, it is a good idea to consult a medical professional.

Have Questions On Other Kinds of Cancer?

At OneVillage, we are dedicated to giving cancer patients help throughout their battles with cancer, in the form of the goods, services, and information they and their supporters need. No matter the kind of cancer, everyone deserves to have access to the tools, knowledge, and support they need for their fight. If you have any questions about neuroendocrine cancer, or any other form of cancer, don’t hesitate to contact us

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