Neuroendocrine tumors develop when DNA mutations occur in the neuroendocrine cells, causing them to excessively reproduce. These excess cells can bind together and form tumors. While scientists are still researching the exact cause of neuroendocrine tumors, some experts believe that it may be linked to genetic defects that pass from parent to child. The neuroendocrine tumor survival rate can vary significantly from patient to patient based on the location, type and stage of the cancer. Therefore, any general statistics relating to prognosis must be viewed within a proper context and are best understood with the help of a treating physician.
Is neuroendocrine cancer aggressive?
In many cases, neuroendocrine tumors are very small and slow-growing. Studies show that these types of tumors can potentially last a lifetime without causing symptoms or spreading. As a result, the survival rate—especially for neuroendocrine tumors that are diagnosed in early stages and properly treated—can be favorable.
The five-year relative survival rate for neuroendocrine cancer often depends on where in the body the tumor is located. For example, for localized neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas, the survival rate is 93%. For localized neuroendocrine tumors of the GI tract, it’s 97%, while neuroendocrine tumors of the lungs have an 89% five-year relative survival rate.
Things to consider about neuroendocrine tumor survival rates
While the overall neuroendocrine tumor survival rate can provide a helpful benchmark for physicians, it is of limited value to individual patients for several reasons. Consider that:
- The data is based on the collective experiences of thousands of people, and the actual outcome for a specific individual can be markedly different from the general average.
- It is impossible to predict the prognosis of any patient with a neuroendocrine tumor because every person responds differently to treatment.
- Survival statistics are captured in five-year intervals; therefore, they do not account for the most recent medical advances or breakthroughs in treatment approaches.
Can neuroendocrine tumors be benign?
All neuroendocrine tumors are malignant, which means they are cancerous, not benign. The main difference between neuroendocrine tumors is how they grow. As noted above, most of these tumors are slow-growing and take years to result in any symptoms. Still, some neuroendocrine tumors are fast-growing and spread quickly.
What are the long-term effects of a neuroendocrine tumor?
Neuroendocrine tumors form in the specialized cells that produce and release hormones through the bloodstream. These cells are found in almost every organ in the body, from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to the lungs, gallbladder and thyroid. Neuroendocrine cells can also be found in the respiratory tract of the head and neck. Therefore, a neuroendocrine tumor can form in a variety of places throughout the body, which means the long-term effects vary based on where in the body the tumor was found. For example:
- Neuroendocrine tumors found in the thyroid can cause inadequate calcium levels in the body as well as weight loss or weight gain.
- Neuroendocrine tumors found along the GI tract can result in digestive distress, such as stomach pain and diarrhea.
- Neuroendocrine tumors found in an adrenal gland can lead to an increased heart rate and/or blood pressure.
- Neuroendocrine tumors found in the lungs can result in chest pain, shortness of breath, weight gain and skin flushing.
- Neuroendocrine tumors found in the pancreas can cause jaundice.
Are neuroendocrine tumors curable?
Localized neuroendocrine tumors that have not spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body can typically be successfully treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Many neuroendocrine tumors can be fully removed with surgery. After that, patients undergo chemotherapy to destroy any other cancer cells. Patients who have the neuroendocrine tumor completely removed may be able to consider themselves cured of this cancer.
Not all neuroendocrine tumors can be removed with surgery, though. In some instances, only partial removal is possible while other tumors may be completely inoperable. Patients who cannot have the tumor fully removed are not considered cured, but treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and clinical trials can relieve symptoms and improve outcomes.
Neuroendocrine tumor treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center
At Moffitt Cancer Center, each patient with a neuroendocrine tumor is evaluated thoroughly by a multispecialty team of experts who have the expertise necessary to design tailored treatment plans for every type of neuroendocrine cancer. Additionally, we have a surgical team that specializes exclusively in neuroendocrine tumor surgery and performs complex procedures with an unparalleled level of skill and precision.
Moffitt’s extensive research initiatives on neuroendocrine tumor treatment have received national recognition, and through our exciting clinical trial program, our patients have opportunities to be among the first to benefit from treatment advances, such as minimally invasive approaches and interventional radiology. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt provides each patient the best possible treatment options to improve his or her quality of life.
If you’d like to learn more about the neuroendocrine tumor survival rate, the experts at Moffitt can explain how it relates to your unique situation. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. You are a top priority for a cancer center that delivers nationally ranked care in new and transformative ways, and you can expect to connect with a cancer expert within a day.