Routine neuroendocrine tumor screening is generally not recommended, mainly because there are currently no testing techniques available that are reliable and cost-effective enough to warrant their use in asymptomatic individuals. Neuroendocrine tumors, which form in the hormone-producing cells of the gastrointestinal system and other organs, are relatively small and tend to grow very slowly. Therefore, it can take several years for them to become sizable enough to produce symptoms, which can vary widely based on the location of the tumor. Some symptoms, like hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, changes in bowel habits, loss of appetite and persistent pain, can be attributed to other medical conditions as well. For these reasons, patients are encouraged to consult with a physician promptly upon noticing anything unusual.
In addition to performing a physical examination, a physician might order one or more of the following screening tests if a neuroendocrine tumor is suspected:
- Blood and urine tests to check for abnormal levels of hormones and other substances, such as adrenaline
- X-rays, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which create detailed images of the structures inside of the body and can reveal tumors and other abnormalities
- Biopsy of a small amount of suspicious tissue for examination by a pathologist under a microscope
- Molecular testing of a tumor to identify specific proteins and other factors
After evaluating the results of these tests, a physician can reach a diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment. If cancer is detected, the physician can also stage the neuroendocrine tumor to determine its extent and progression. The cancer’s stage is an important factor that is taken into account, along with the patient’s age, medical history, overall health and the tumor’s unique characteristics, when designing a treatment plan.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our tumor board of gastrointestinal oncology experts specializes in diagnosing and treating neuroendocrine tumors, and we offer the very latest options in both aspects. Our research breakthroughs are well recognized, as evidenced by our designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. Through our exciting clinical trials, our patients can benefit from brand-new therapies that are not yet available elsewhere.
If you’re experiencing symptoms or would like to learn more about neuroendocrine tumor screening and diagnosis, the experts at Moffitt can help. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.