A diagnosis of cancer--any type of cancer--can feel overwhelming. At Henry Ford Health, you will find compassion and ongoing support from experienced neuroendocrine cancer specialists. Our team of doctors and nurses offers everything you and your family need: rapid diagnosis, personalized care, and expert treatment.
Neuroendocrine cancer, otherwise known as carcinoid tumors, is rare and complex. It is one of the more challenging types of cancer to treat and it requires a highly specialized multidisciplinary team approach for the most effective treatment. Our neuroendocrine cancer clinic combines internationally renowned expertise from Philip Philip, M.D., and leading therapies from a team of specialists.
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We are the only center in Michigan with a fully dedicated neuroendocrine tumor board that meets on regular basis to discuss patients. This brings together neuroendocrine specialists in one room to pool their expertise and make the right recommendations for your care.
Neuroendocrine tumors, at times referred to carcinoid tumors, form in specialized cells within the body’s neuroendocrine system. These cells share some characteristics with nerve cells, but they can also produce certain hormones. While neuroendocrine tumors can be found anywhere in the body, many form in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs. In many cases, the exact cause is unknown. They are rarely due to hereditary conditions.
There are two main types of neuroendocrine tumors: “functional” and “nonfunctional”. What makes a tumor functional is whether it releases certain chemicals into the bloodstream that result in a unique condition. The most well-known condition is the carcinoid syndrome. Carcinoid syndrome occurs when a carcinoid tumor secretes chemicals into your bloodstream, causing a variety of signs and symptoms (insert hyperlink to anchor link to below content on symptoms). A carcinoid tumor, which is a type of neuroendocrine tumor, occurs most often in the gastrointestinal tract or the lungs. In addition, doctors define neuroendocrine tumors using two other factors, the “stage” (extent of growth or spread) and “grade” (how fast the tumor is growing and spreading).
Leading neuroendocrine tumor care
As a rare and complex condition, where you go for treatment matters. The level of a program’s neuroendocrine tumor expertise, as well as having access to the latest therapies, are both key to getting the most effective and safest treatment. At our clinic, we perform a comprehensive assessment and provide personalized care for this challenging condition. We offer:
For example, the gastroenterology team is highly skilled in managing patients with gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors. This includes performing advanced endoscopies and procedures such as relief of bile duct obstruction and stent placements.
Some patients may need an endocrinologist to help manage some symptoms that arise when the tumor releases hormones into the bloodstream. These “functional tumors” can produce symptoms such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and excessive diarrhea that can be best managed by an endocrinologist.
One size does not fit all when it comes to treating neuroendocrine tumors. We study each case and personalize your treatment options to meet your specific needs. We’ll ensure that you understand your condition and what the future might hold.
Once a neuroendocrine tumor is identified and located, you may need surgery to remove most or all of the tumor. Our cancer surgeons who specialize in gastroenterology, pulmonology and pancreatic surgery (among other specialties) are experienced in performing the most complex procedures.
Interventional radiology is a specialty that performs various minimally-invasive procedures using medical imaging guidance. If you need a biopsy, it will be performed by one of our interventional radiology experts. We also offer other advanced, minimally invasive procedures-- such as the use of extreme cold or heat delivered directly to the tumor to ablate it.
As part of your personalized treatment plan, you may need drug therapies, such as chemotherapy or other medications.. This may be delivered alone or in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery. With drug therapies like chemotherapy, we use the most effective techniques while minimizing toxicity and side effects. If necessary, we will also genetically test the tumor to further personalize your treatment and find the most effective treatment plan for you.
This new targeted therapy blends elements of radiation therapy and medical oncology—and it is not offered at most cancer centers. This procedure uses an IV to deliver a drug that is paired with a small amount of radioactive material. This combination attaches itself to the tumor cells, delivering radiation directly to the tumor to destroy it.
In some cases, a liver transplant may be needed. Henry Ford Health Transplant Services, which is internationally renowned, offers the most comprehensive organ transplant program in Michigan, and it handles some of the most complex cases in the nation.
Unlike some types of cancer, most neuroendocrine tumors develop and grow at a slow rate--even at advanced stages. Given that the cancer may not be diagnosed until it has advanced, this means that people diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors may receive multiple treatments and live longer with this unique cancer. Many patients can live their normal lives for many years. Recognizing this is an important factor in your care. At Henry Ford Health, every effort is made to pursue effective therapy while minimizing side effects, so you can achieve the highest quality of life with neuroendocrine cancer.
Neuroendocrine cancer symptoms
The specific symptoms of a neuroendocrine tumor depend on its location in the body, its stage, and its grade. In some cases, there are no symptoms until the tumor has advanced. This is especially true for nonfunctional tumors. Adding to the complexity, when there are symptoms from either a functional or nonfunctional tumor, they may be mistaken for another condition. When there are symptoms, these can include:
Pain from the tumor expanding and growing, which causes a “space-occupying” pressure
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
Fewer than 5% of tumors arising in the pancreas are neuroendocrine tumors. Fortunately, most of these neuroendocrine tumors are slow growing and significantly less aggressive than the common variety pancreatic cancers that are called adenocarcinomas.
Neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis
If your neuroendocrine tumor doesn’t produce symptoms, it might be detected during a routine screening for another condition. If you do have symptoms, depending on the type of tumor, where it’s located and your specific symptoms, you may first see your primary care doctor before being referred to a neuroendocrine specialist. While a neuroendocrine tumor can be diagnosed in other ways, a diagnosis is most often made after a CT scan reveals the presence of a tumor.
What to expect at your first neuroendocrine appointment?
Once you are referred to the neuroendocrine tumor team at Henry Ford Health, your first visit will focus on confirming your diagnosis, reviewing the results of all of tests you’ve had, determining the need for further testing, and planning the next steps in your treatment. This includes:
A thorough evaluation of your symptoms
Having a medical exam and examining your medical history
Having initial testing done, such as bloodwork, imaging scans or a biopsy of the tumor if one has already been found
Depending on your neuroendocrine tumor and treatment needs, you may also meet with other specialists, such as a surgeon or nutritionist
After your first visit, your case will be discussed in our dedicated neuroendocrine tumor board, and we’ll develop your personalized treatment plan that will be communicated to you and your doctor.
Please call 911 if you have an emergency or urgent medical question.
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