Neuroendocrine Cancer – a Doctor’s experience

General
[caption id="attachment_4617" align="alignleft" width="225"] Dr Michael Richardson - NET Cancer Patient[/caption] UNFORTUNATELY, MILL HILL TIMES HAVE REMOVED THE DOCTOR'S STORY FROM THEIR WEBSITE BUT I'M TRYING TO OBTAIN THE SCRIPT ELSEWHERE. When I was undergoing my initial treatment and surgery I didn't really have the knowledge I have now.  I was initially treated by experienced Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) specialists in an established NET Centre and I guess I felt comfortable with what was happening.  In hindsight, I wish I had studied the disease earlier as I would have understood at the time what was actually happening to my body and more fully understood the treatments I was to undergo. As we all know, Cancer knows no boundaries and even Doctors can succumb to his disease. Despite this, I was still surprised to…
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Not all cancers are black, white, blue, pink – some are very grey

Not all cancers are black, white, blue, pink – some are very grey

Awareness
OPINIONOver the last few months, I've seen quite a few posts entitled "Not all Cancer is pink".  I suspect it's a reference to the ubiquitous publicity that many women's cancer-related advocates, bloggers and organisations attract. Although, whether this is publicity that reflects reality or actually works, is another thingThose who use this phrase are perhaps concerned there is an imbalance and inherent unfairness in the distribution of support and are frustrated that their own cancer does not fare as well publicly? I share that frustration, however, I take my hat off to the battalions of advocates, bloggers and organisations who work very hard for breast and the various gynaecological cancers whether they push pink or not - and for the record, they don't all push or even agree with the…
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Lanreotide – it’s calling the shots!

Lanreotide – it’s calling the shots!

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
On 9th December 2020, I celebrated 10 years of Lanreotide - click here to read about that.My Lanreotide ExperienceWhen I was discharged from hospital following major surgery in Nov 2010, I knew I would shortly be commencing long-term monthly 'somatostatin analogue' treatment and had assumed Octreotide (Sandostatin LAR) would be the drug of choice. However, my Oncologist prescribed Lanreotide (known in the UK as Somatuline Autogel and elsewhere as Somatuline Depot).  Technically this is a hormone therapy (it's not chemo).Somatostatin Analogues (Octreotide/Lanreotide) are mainstay treatments for many Neuroendocrine Cancer patients and their introduction is a very significant factor in the improvement of both prognostic outcomes and quality of life.  Both drugs are designed to control Carcinoid Syndrome (but can be used selectively in other NET syndromes) and both have anti-tumour effects.  Check out…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Survivor Wilko Johnson – from dying to living.  Rock and Roll!

Neuroendocrine Cancer Survivor Wilko Johnson – from dying to living. Rock and Roll!

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
I recently blogged about a well-known BBC political reporter who has Neuroendocrine Cancer with a Lung Primary.  However, in the usual media 'double speak' which can sometimes pervade the coverage of such events, he is said to have Lung Cancer.  As I said in that article, sometimes with Neuroendocrine Cancer - the devil is in the detail and you just need to dig to find it. Annoying, we shouldn't need to dig as he doesn't have Lung Cancer.  I wrote about this anatomical issue here.  This is exactly what happened to Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin.No sooner had I published the Nick Robinson article, I was alerted to the broadcasting of a film about rock star Wilko Johnson who has the most amazing story to tell. Wilko is a former member…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – Small Intestine NET, my own experience (part 2)

Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – Small Intestine NET, my own experience (part 2)

Treatment
The surgery on 9 Nov 2010 had lasted 9 hours but according to my surgeon Mr Neil Pearce (on the left on the picture below), I tolerated it well.  My first week was quite tough and I outlined how this went in my blog 'patient experience' part 1.  If you've not read it yet, please click on this link before reading any further. By this stage of my stay, I'm now minus most of the temporary tubes attached to my body, a good sign of recovery. The one which seemed to offer me the greatest freedom when removed was the urine catheter. It doubled my speed down the hospital corridor during my daily exercises.  It was also so much easier to get to the toilet, a much-frequented area at the time…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – Small Intestine NET, my own experience (part 1)

Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – Small Intestine NET, my own experience (part 1)

Survivorship, Treatment
This is a personal story but a more technical description of Small Intestine surgery for a NET can be found by clicking here.  This is not normal bowel surgery. Often the decision to cut or not to cut is a tough one. My own experience 8th - 26th November 2010 Memories of my 18 day stay in hospital from 8 - 26 Nov 2010, are not only reminding me of how important that particular treatment was to be, but also how surreal it felt at the time. Some of it is still a blur, particularly the early days where the morphine was in control.  For many NET patients, surgery can be a mainstay treatment, even for those with metastatic disease.  In fact, I now know from my own research that…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – the devil is in the detail

General
[caption id="attachment_4343" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Nick Robinson BBC[/caption] Nick Robinson, well-known and ex-BBC Political Editor starts his new job today (16 Nov 15) on BBC Radio 4. He was until earlier this year, the most recognised political reporter face on UK TV, frequently stood outside 10 Downing St reporting on anything politics and at any time of the day. Like a lot of people, Nick's life changed when he was diagnosed with Cancer in Feb 2015. A self-confessed workaholic, he is now hoping to live a more balanced life after surviving lung cancer according to an article in the Sunday Times this weekend. He assumes the post vacated by James Naughtie, an extremely hard act to follow - a man who would frequently sink his teeth into a politician's leg and not let…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – a difficult jigsaw

Neuroendocrine Cancer – a difficult jigsaw

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
A couple of years ago, I received a request from a reader asking if I would write an article about all the symptoms experienced by a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient and how to sort out what is and what isn't associated with NETs.Although I chuckled and raised eyebrows at the request, inside I was genuinely humbled that someone thought I was capable of achieving this herculean task.  I actually gave it quite a bit of thought to the point of compiling a matrix of types of NET, main symptoms, cross-referenced with the symptoms of the most common reported comorbidities. After it started to look like it might be bigger than the Empire State Building, I came to the conclusion that it's an almost impossible task for a wee Scottish guy with…
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Grading and Staging Staging Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (incorporating WHO 2021 changes)

Grading and Staging Staging Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (incorporating WHO 2021 changes)

Patient Advocacy
One of the most discussed and sometimes confusing subjects on forums is the staging and grading of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NENs). Mixing them up is a common error and so it's important to understand the difference despite the apparent complexity. If I was to make a list of questions for my specialist/Oncologist at diagnosis, it would include "What is the stage, grade and differentiation of my cancer". To enable me to synchronise with the documented guidance, I'm going to use the following WHO 2019 approved terms in this post and then provide an update of the key WHO 2019 changes below.Neuroendocrine Neoplasm (NEN) - all types of Neuroendocrine tumour of whatever grade (please note Neoplasm is another word for tumour)Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) - all well-differentiated tumours, Grade 1,2 or 3 (an…
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Your Money or Your Life

Your Money or Your Life

Inspiration, Survivorship, Treatment
As I have a 2 year old post about Danielle, I wanted to preface it with this message. It is with great sadness that I let you know Danielle Tindle passed away at the end of August 2017 after a prolonged battle with Neuroendocrine Carcinoma. She had been fighting cancer in one form or another for 12 years and became passionate in campaigning for more attention for young cancer patients.  I've been following her story for almost 2 years and she has really inspired me.  The title of this article is based on the title of a TV programme about her and her campaign to gain access to new drugs.  I had chatted with Danielle online about some of the story below and I hope I've interpreted it correctly.   RIP…
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Scanxiety – I just don’t get it!

Scanxiety – I just don’t get it!

Inspiration, Survivorship
OPINION The internet is full of blogs and articles about a subject which is described as 'scanxiety' - the joining of the words 'scan' and 'anxiety'. I also noted some authors using the words 'scanxiety' and 'anxiety' interchangeably which in my opinion is clearly wrong as by definition it is only an anxiety about scans and I guess incorporates the results of scans.  Not that we need separate names - at the end of the day, it's just anxiety regardless of whether it is waiting on the results of a biopsy, blood test, urine test, or anything else related to an illness.  No-one goes around saying 'blood-testxiety' or 'biopsyxiety'. Why just scans? ‘Scanxiety’  - I just don't get it  ......or more accurately I just don't get overly anxious about having…
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Not all Cancer is simple

General
[caption id="attachment_4135" align="alignleft" width="670"] Not all Cancer is simple[/caption] So Victoria Derbyshire has breast cancer and has used her 'workplace' as a platform to let people know she is a determined survivor. Nothing wrong with that, it's great cancer awareness for some and inspiration for others (including me). However, reading through various newspaper follow-up articles, blogs and social media comments, I can see criticism by many for producing an over simplified message (see picture below).  Although many of us will be wishing it was so, not all cancer is simple! Take Neuroendocrine Cancer for example. For some, this 'silent' cancer can take years to be finally diagnosed whilst the patient is misdiagnosed with other conditions often with debilitating symptoms. Once diagnosed, surgery (if it's possible) is just one of a number of treatment options…
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Other people get cancer, not me

Other people get cancer, not me

Inspiration, Treatment
Denial I talk often about my diagnosis but not about an 'incident' which occurred almost immediately prior to being formally told.I was well into the 'diagnostic phase', having had all sorts of tests including a liver biopsy.  I vividly remember thinking these tests were a 'nuisance', I was far too busy and I didn't even feel ill.  In hindsight, I was fortunate to have had such a thorough bunch of physicians who diagnosed me with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer in about 6 weeks 'flash to bang'.  I intentionally use a phrase associated with 'quick' because in the world of Neuroendocrine Cancer, 6 weeks is 'warp speed'.So why was I admitted to hospital during the diagnostic phase? Because I was stupid.  In fact I was double-stupid. Firstly, despite having had to undergo a liver biopsy and…
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I bet my flush beats yours?

I bet my flush beats yours?

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Treatment
Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) can sometimes present with one or more vague symptoms which occasionally results in a lengthy diagnostic phase for some.  Sure, there can be issues with doctor experience and knowledge that can add to the problem. However, some people do present with multiple vague and confusing symptoms and some people have comorbidities which have similar symptoms.  Textbook diagnostics just don't make sense, sometimes even when the doctor suspects a NET i.e. classic symptoms of 'something' but with negative markers for NETs. Clearly those are extreme cases and just like other complex diseases, many diagnoses of NET can be extremely challenging.  Even for an experienced doctor, it can be a difficult jigsaw!Most types of NET can have associated 'syndrome' i.e. the tumours are 'functional' and this is normally (but not always)…
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Opinion: Let’s attack Cancer metaphors

Opinion: Let’s attack Cancer metaphors

General
Share on facebook Facebook Share on twitter Twitter Share on pinterest Pinterest Share on whatsapp WhatsApp Share on email Email In the past 24 months, I've read dozens of articles on the subject of cancer metaphors and in particular their use in describing cancer experiences with the words 'fight', 'battle' and other 'military' sounding terms.  The authors say that perhaps this is not the best language to use.  One author used the term 'violence' to describe these type of metaphors.  A ridiculous misrepresentation of the metaphor in my opinion.Let me put my cards right on the table as I would hate to twist the meaning of words or the inference of any metaphors I might use.  I don't like Cancer - it attacked me, it attacked my family, it attacked others I know, it has killed people I know....... it has killed…
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Opinion: Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness – let’s move into the 21st century

Opinion: Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness – let’s move into the 21st century

Awareness
OPINIONThe build up to so called NET Cancer Day has begun and I can hear hoofbeats becoming louder every day. Is it a horse, is it a zebra etc etc. However, is this aged equine medical adage still applicable as an awareness tool for Neuroendocrine Cancer or should we be looking for something which is more impactful, up to date, more compelling, more likely be taken seriously and attract new audiences?  p.s. even our day has a ridiculous name - "NET Cancer" decodes to "Neuroendocrine Tumour Cancer" which is quite ludicrous not only because of the grammar but also because it precludes a whole bunch of people from the Neuroendocrine Carcinoma area of the disease.For those unaware, the term 'Zebra' is a North American medical slang for arriving at an…
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PRRT and the NHS England Cancer Drugs Fund (now archived information)

Treatment
[caption id="attachment_3922" align="aligncenter" width="425"] cost cutting vs life cutting?[/caption] Please note this post is now historic information - PRRT (Lutathera) was eventually approved for use in UK.  See the following post for the very latest on PRRT worldwide - CLICK HERE I was extremely disappointed to learn of the decision to remove PRRT (Lutetium or Yttrium) from the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).  You can read the detail of the decision here: CDF Statement.  PRRT has regularly been described by NET specialists and patients as the "magic bullet" due to its potential to shrink or kill tumours.  This is the second Neuroendocrine Cancer treatment to be withdrawn this year, after the earlier decision on Everolimus (Afinitor) in April . In fact, the recent cuts to the CDF were described in the…
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Screw that diagnosis and get on with it!

General
  [caption id="attachment_3902" align="alignleft" width="300"] Screw that diagnosis and get on with it![/caption] Every now and then I see a positive story during my travels around the internet.  When I saw this one from K**** in Pennsylvania, I had to share.  If you're feeling a little bit down and need cheering up, dig out this blog and take a read :-) K**** wrote: "I began my Carcinoid journey about 7 years ago, newly married to a wonderful man and his daughter at the age of 43.  I was also newly retired (from CPA and also Large Animal/Equine Surgical Veterinary Assistant) and was looking forward to a nice, peaceful, fun, loooong life. But, things get in the way and can get bumpy - cancer, being one of them (and a now, 16yo…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 3 – Gut Health

Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 3 – Gut Health

Diet and Nutrition
OPINION.  Nutritional issues are one of the biggest challenges affecting most Neuroendocrine Cancer patients.  It is also a key factor in maintaining a decent quality of life and for most countries without adequate NET Specialist Dietitian support, it remains an unmet need. In this article, I'm discussing the use of probiotics to combat the potential issue of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in Neuroendocrine Tumours. When I first indicated this nutrition series was under construction, a few people got quite excited anticipating me to produce advice on what to eat.  However, that was never my intention. What people should or should not eat is such a varied problem (or solution?) that anything I said would only really be of help to those for whom it worked - ergo this area is not…
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Neuroendocrine…..the little suckers get everywhere!

Neuroendocrine…..the little suckers get everywhere!

Awareness
One of the key milestones in my awareness campaigns occurred when I featured as a guest blogger for one of the biggest cancer 'support' organisations in the world - Macmillan. The aim of the blog 'Sorry I'm not in service' was actually to highlight the consequences of cancer and its treatment (a Macmillan Campaign message), and to a certain extent to highlight the conflict that can often exist between work and cancer. However, it was also a fantastic opportunity for me to grab the interest of the general population with the word 'Neuroendocrine'.  The response was amazing and on twitter it was one of Macmillan's most retweeted posts over that period.  The Macmillan Facebook post was also very popular and still rising with around 500 likes and around 40 shares so far. There are some great comments on…
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I look well but you should see my insides

I look well but you should see my insides

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
I'm sat next to patients waiting on their chemotherapy treatment - the "Chemo Ward" sign above the door gives it away.  I'm here for my 28-day cycle injection of Lanreotide which will hopefully keep my Neuroendocrine Tumours at bay.  I look all around; the temporary beds and the waiting room are full and all I can see is people who don't look as well as I do.  Some have hats or bandanas partly disguising the loss of hair. I feel for them.No matter how many visits I make, I can't help feeling out of place on a Cancer ward. I'm not sure why I feel like this; after all, I've had some very scary surgery and I've been having treatment since 2010. However, this thought doesn't seem to balance it out - some of these…
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The Syndromes of Neuroendocrine Cancer – Early Signs of a Late Diagnosis

The Syndromes of Neuroendocrine Cancer – Early Signs of a Late Diagnosis

Awareness
One of the curious things about Neuroendocrine Cancer (NETs elsewhere in the text) is that it can very often exhibit one or more vague symptoms collectively known as a 'syndrome'.  Syndrome is an apt word to describe these complications as the most general meaning in medical terms is a group of symptoms that together are characteristic of a specific disorder or disease".  Having a syndrome can often be the difference between having a 'functional' condition or a non-functional' condition - see more below.This frequently makes Neuroendocrine Cancer very difficult to diagnose quickly.  It's a very devious disease.It's NOT all about Carcinoid Syndrome!Most people think of Carcinoid Syndrome when they discuss NETs. Anyone suggesting that all NET patients get carcinoid syndrome or that all symptoms of NETs are caused by carcinoid…
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‘Chinese Dumplings’ and Neuroendocrine Cancer

Treatment
One of my daily alerts brought up this very interesting article published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology last month (June 2015).  I personally found it fascinating. Moreover, it gave me some hope that specialists are out there looking for novel treatments to help with the difficult fight against Neuroendocrine Cancer.This is an article about something generally described as "Intra-operative Chemotherapy", i.e. the administration of chemo during surgery.  This isn't any old article - this is written by someone who is very well-known in Neuroendocrine Cancer circles - Dr. Yi-Zarn Wang.March 2022: Note Dr Wang has a new post.“I am now in Permian Basin-Odessa Midland Texas as the new Program Director of a new general surgery residency program. I have officially joined the faculty of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on…
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I’m still here

I’m still here

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer - 26th July 2010.  Until I arrived at my 5th anniversary, I hadn't thought much about how (or if) I should mark these occasions.  I never thought I would dwell on such things as 'Cancerversaries' but I now totally get why many patients and survivors do.There are several types of 'Cancerversary' that for some, could trigger a mix or range of emotions including gratitude, relief and fear of cancer recurrence or growth. These milestones could be the date of a cancer diagnosis, the end of a particular type of treatment (anniversary of surgery etc) or a period since no signs or symptoms of cancer were reported. Everybody will handle it their own way - and that's perfectly understandable.The 5-year milestone was significant, I…
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Sorry, I’m not in service

Sorry, I’m not in service

General
Featured by Macmillan Cancer - check out this link. Featured by Cancer Knowledge Network - check out this link. It's good to be busy, it can take your mind off stuff you don't really want to think about. That was my tactic after being diagnosed with incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer.  I just kept working and working and was still sending work emails and making telephone calls on the day I was being admitted to hospital for major surgery. After all, how could they possibly function without me? Although I was banned from work after the surgery, I still dropped an email to let them know I was doing cartwheels down the hospital corridor. They expected nothing less. I guess the image of 'invincibility' was important to me at that time.  It was part of my personal…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 2 – Gastrointestinal Malabsorption

Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 2 – Gastrointestinal Malabsorption

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
This is the second article in the Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition series. In the first article, I focused on Vitamin and Mineral deficiency risks for patients and there is a big overlap with the subject of Gastrointestinal Malabsorption. Those who remember the content will have spotted the risks pertaining to the inability to absorb particular vitamins and minerals. This comes under the general heading of Malabsorption and in Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, this can be caused or exacerbated by one or more of a number of factors relating to their condition. It's also worth pointing out that malabsorption issues can be caused by other reasons unrelated to NETs. Additionally, malabsorption and nutrient deficiency issues can form part of the presenting symptoms which eventually lead to a diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Cancer; e.g. in my own case,…
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Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – not as rare as you think

Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – not as rare as you think

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
BackgroundAlthough initially considered rare tumours up until 10 years ago, the most recent data indicates the incidence of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NENs) has increased exponentially over the last 4 decades and they are as common as Myeloma, Testicular Cancer, and Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In terms of prevalence, NENs represent the second most common gastrointestinal malignancy after colorectal cancer. Consequently, many experts are now claiming NENs are not rare (see below).A recent study published in Dec 2020 indicates that Rectal NETs may be vastly understated having been included in the databases for Colorectal Cancer and hidden from NET figures.  Read more here.A recent study published on 5 Dec 2018 reports that even if you isolate Small Intestine NETs in the USA population, the incidence rate is 9/100,000. Contrast this against the US incidence…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 1 – Vitamin and Mineral Challenges

Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 1 – Vitamin and Mineral Challenges

Diet and Nutrition
Always speak to your specialist before taking vitamin and mineral supplementsFeaturing Tara WhyandDespite learning early on in my journey that nutrition was going to be a challenge, I sensed the initial focus of my treatment was on getting rid of as much tumour bulk as possible and then controlling (stabilising) the disease through monitoring and surveillance. Clearly I'm happy about that! However, it eventually became clear that the impact of this constant treatment/controlling, meant that some of the less obvious signs of nutrient deficiency were potentially being missed.This is one of the key reasons I believe there is a gap in specialist follow on support for Neuroendocrine Cancer patients - at least in the UK. As I said in my article 'I may be stable but I still need support', Neuroendocrine Cancer patients…
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Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Survivorship, Treatment
I enjoyed reading an article written by Dr Eric Liu entitled The Complications of Surgery. In his article, Dr Liu, himself a surgeon, explains that surgery comes with risks, and patients should be made aware and be able to discuss these risks with their doctors. This got me thinking about my own experience which goes back to the autumn of 2010 when I first met my surgeon. At that time, there were a few articles about whether surgery or 'biochemistry' was the best treatment for certain types, grades and stages of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs).To some extent, these debates continue, particularly for pancreatic NETs. Surgery for certain NETs in certain scenarios is a controversial issue for NETs - as outlined in this article - to cut or not to cut. I've…
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I may be stable but I still need support and surveillance

I may be stable but I still need support and surveillance

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
With incurable but treatable cancers such as metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer, 'Stable' is normally not the end of the matter, for many there is still a long road ahead and that road may not be straight or flat. The long road may be considered an advantage by some given that with very aggressive cancers, incurable can frequently mean terminal. The surveillance must continue in case of a recurrence.It's important to understand that 'Stable' simply means the disease is "under control" with tests and scans showing the cancer hasn't changed over time. One of the disadvantages of 'incurable but treatable' is that Quality of Life (QoL) can in many cases be compromised due to the consequences of cancer and /or treatment. However, if specialist treatment, surveillance and support are all in place,…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Online Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Neuroendocrine Cancer Online Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
OPINIONWhen I was diagnosed, I was happy with my own research and kept away from forums on the advice of a fellow patient who said they can be overly negative. Just before my second major operation in 2011, I decided to take the plunge and registered with an online web forum (not a Facebook one). Looking back to that period, I wasn't really a major player, more of a 'lurker'. I found it quite 'cliquey' and I should have listened to the initial advice of that fellow patient!  So I left it after the reigning clique found I didn't want to be part of their pity party.Joining forums/Online patient groupsIn 2013/14, I joined several large Facebook closed groups which function as forums. After 4 years, I felt more experienced and…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – don’t break my heart!

Neuroendocrine Cancer – don’t break my heart!

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
Neuroendocrine Cancer has certain unique features whereby tumours can produce one or more symptoms which are known collectively as a syndrome.  Neuroendocrine Tumours secreting excess amounts of serotonin, can be accompanied by Carcinoid Syndrome which if not diagnosed and treated early enough, can lead to an additional complication known as Hedinger Syndrome (often known as Carcinoid Heart Disease (CHD)). However, very late diagnoses can present with CHD already in place.Excess serotonin, a hormone released by NETs into the bloodstream seems to be the prime and lead suspect for causing thick ‘plaques’ or fibrosis tissue within the heart muscle and damage to (mainly) the tricuspid and pulmonary valves on the right side of the heart which can become ‘tightly narrowed’ or ‘leaky’.  It's very similar to the reasons for mesenteric and peritoneal fibrosis…
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Please flush after use!

Please flush after use!

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Humour, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
In the past couple of years, I've read so many stories about the quite natural act of using a toilet (.....some more repeatable than others).  I think if there was a 'Bachelor of Science degree in Toiletry', I might pass with First Class Honours. I jest clearly but it's strange that such a routine activity for most can actually become quite scientific in the world of Neuroendocrine Cancer and other ailments which might be described in some scenarios as invisible illnesses. I also found myself smiling at the fact that flushing is connected with the toilet and a type of red warm feeling in the upper torso - the two main symptoms of the Carcinoid Syndrome associated with the most common type of Neuroendocrine Cancer.  "Please flush after use" - erm...yes sure but actually -…
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Chasing normality

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
Cancer isn’t always a one-time event. It can be a chronic (ongoing) illness, much like diabetes or heart disease. Cancer can be closely watched and treated, but sometimes it never completely goes away. The cancer may be 'controlled' with treatment, meaning it might seem to go away or stay the same, and it doesn’t grow or spread as long as you are getting appropriate treatment. Sometimes the treatment shrinks the cancer, but the cancer is still there – it doesn’t go away and stay away – it’s not cured.  More people are living with cancer than ever before and the ratio is on the increase thanks to better treatments. For the first 18 months following my diagnosis, I underwent a significant number of treatments and tests.  As I continue living with my cancer, that tempo doesn’t…
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The C Word

General
'The C Word' or 'The Big C' - the subject which must not be discussed.  Or is this now an out of date phrase?  I read a useful article a month ago where the author debated where we might be if, 50 years ago, we were as open about cancer as we are now (there, I said the word).  Nowadays you cannot turn a page in a newspaper without seeing a story of sadness, inspiration or medical science progress. Certainly the latter has played a huge part in reducing cancer mortality rates and sending more people into remission. We now have much better tools to discover and treat cancer. Moreover, because we are increasingly open about cancer, there is more awareness. According to Cancer Research UK, as we all live longer, more than one…
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Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
Neuroendocrine??? what's that! I once met some fellow cancer advocates and the conversation turned to what inspired us to ‘do what we do’. When it came to my turn as the only Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, I was already prepared to regurgitate my usual 'spiel'. As sometimes happens, a listener queried me with the words "Neuroendocrine - what's that?".  Another focused on 'Neuro' enquiring whether my nervous system or my brain had somehow become cancerous. Deja vu - here we go again!Two days later, I was speaking to one of my online friends who was having similar problems explaining this cancer to family and friends. Again 'Neuro' was proving difficult with the assumption that it’s somehow related to the brain. Technically not far from the truth but context is really important given that most…
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The trouble with the NET (Part 2) – Alternative Therapies – what’s the harm?

The trouble with the NET (Part 2) – Alternative Therapies – what’s the harm?

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
But it works, I read it on the internet! “But it works… I read it on the internet!”You may remember my article entitled The trouble with the NET (Part 1) which was a lighthearted but still serious discussion about the dangers of self-treatment on the internet. Linked to that blog was a very popular article written by the scientists at Cancer Research UK debunking some cancer myths which seem to regularly patrol the NET and social media.Many well meaning people will send you articles they saw on the 'NET' about this and that treatment which claims to cure cancer.  They also post them on social media increasing the reach to thousands of people, some of whom are not in the right frame of mind to see the risks.  The vast…
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Chemotherapy for Neuroendocrine Cancer

Chemotherapy for Neuroendocrine Cancer

Treatment
Edited and checked February 2022One of the unusual aspects of Neuroendocrine Cancer is that chemotherapy is not normally considered as a 'standard' or first-line treatment, unlike many other cancers. One exception is high grade (Grade 3) where it is very often a first and/or second-line therapy. This is particularly the case with poorly differentiated Neuroendocrine disease, by default labelled as Neuroendocrine Carcinoma (NEC). Many people think Chemotherapy has a short life span due to recent advances in medical science, some citing Immunotherapy as its replacement. However, it's far too early to write off chemotherapy which is still used in many scenarios and remains a tool in the arsenal of treatments for many cancer types and is predicted to do for some time yet. See more informed reporting about this below.Interest point…
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Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
OPINIONThere's a constant debate regarding the validity of the term 'Carcinoid'.  I've posted about this a few times and as far as I know, the debate has been raging for some years.EDIT MARCH 2022.  The latest classification system for Lung Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NEN) confirms the word "carcinoid" is now a choice - the WHO Lung Committee bottled it.  I made my choice some years ago, I hope others follow suit.  Read more about changes to Lung NEN by clicking here. EDIT APRIL 2020.  The latest classification system for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms confirms the word "carcinoid" no longer forms part of the terminology used in Digestive System tumours (effectively removing the term from GEP NETs) - read more - click hereEdit May 2020.  So, what about other areas not included in GEPNETs above? Please note there…
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Cancer doesn’t take holidays (but I do)

Cancer doesn’t take holidays (but I do)

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
Glen Etive Scotland in 2018 [caption id="attachment_2911" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mt Jacinto near Palm Springs[/caption] After diagnosis in July 2010, with the exception of a planned holiday to Turkey prior to my 'big surgery', holidays were put on the back burner, there were too many problems and too many risks - not least of which was the lack of overseas insurance cover for my condition. After 2 years of treatment including several surgeries, I was feeling more confident and my body had become stronger, holidays were put back on the agenda, but nothing too strenuous, nothing too far away. We stuck to Europe over the period 2012-2014. However, in 2015, I was getting more confident and managed to get back to one of my all-time favourite places - California.  A total…
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No Fear

No Fear

Inspiration, Survivorship
Share on facebook Facebook Share on twitter Twitter Share on pinterest Pinterest Share on whatsapp WhatsApp Share on email Email It's that time again, every 6 months I need some checks. I've done the specialist blood test (Chromogranin A - CgA) and the 5HIAA and am waiting on my CT scan appointment. It's also time for my annual Echocardiogram. I then see my Consultant and he delivers the news.I positively look forward to my tests and I cannot wait to get into that scanner! 'Scanxiety' isn't in my dictionary.  Why? Because testing is one thing that's going to keep me alive for as long as possible.  If I don't get regularly tested, then one day I might just 'keel over' because something wasn't spotted early enough.  Even in the event…
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The trouble with the NET (Part 1) – Cancer Myths

The trouble with the NET (Part 1) – Cancer Myths

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Certain popular ideas about how cancer starts and spreads - though scientifically wrong, can seem to make sense, especially when those ideas are rooted in old theories. To a certain extent, it can be the case with treatment too. But wrong ideas about cancer can lead to needless worry and even hinder good prevention and treatment decisions.In one study, a surprising 40% of Americans believe cancer can be cured solely through alternative therapies, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s second annual National Cancer Opinion Survey.  In a similar study in UK, the NHS blamed social media for the spread of fake healthcare news.  Unfortunately, social media 'misinformation' includes 'alleged' cures for various ailments including cancer.  I think we've all been there, we check twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc and…
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Exercise is Medicine

General
  I suspect we all know exercise is good for us but it does sometimes take quite a bit of effort to get out there and do some! Apparently the older you get, the harder it becomes (I can confirm this is true!).  I did write about this in 2014 (Exercise - it's a free prescription).  In fact, my blog  was actually created to document my return to fitness and good health 12 months ago! I was prompted to write this blog after discovering a piece of advice for NET Cancer patients, specifically those with carcinoid syndrome. The advice is one of those catchy 'single letter' lists called the "5 E's" of things to avoid - one of which is 'Exercise'.  Clearly 'Exercise' needs putting into some context as everybody needs…
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Things are not always how they seem

Things are not always how they seem

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
In 2014, Chris and I walked 84 miles along Hadrian's Wall on the English/Scottish border.  It was a fantastic experience, and we met some really interesting people on our 6-day journey.  On the 4th night, I encountered a lady who was pretty rude. I wanted to say something, but I was with Chris and other people were also present, so I kept quiet.  I later discovered this lady was autistic and I was, therefore, relieved I hadn't responded to her initial rudeness. However, it got me thinking about the number of times I had perhaps been too hasty to judge people in the past without thinking about what was going on inside their heads and bodies.Visible Illness can have awareness benefitsConversely in 2018, I was absolutely humbled when I met a…
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Do you suffer from NET Brain?

Do you suffer from NET Brain?

Awareness, Humour
The acronym 'NET' (NeuroEndocrine Tumour) can be advantageous to NET advocates and organisations because it occasionally attracts readership from outside the Cancer community when links are accidentally found by 'surfers'.NET just also happens to be a common truncation of the word 'Internet' or 'Network'.  The vast majority will realise the irrelevance (to them) and move on but 1 or 2 might just hang around and take a look.  Bingo - we have spread a little bit of awareness!However, these unintended awareness opportunities are not confined to 'NET'.  According to my blog statistics, other than my name, the most common search phrase which leads to my blog is "No Fear" - the title of one of two blogs I wrote on so-called 'scanxiety'.  However, I suspect many surfers, base jumpers, bungee jumpers, climbers, extreme sport types and those looking for…
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Surgery for NETs – Chop Chop

Surgery for NETs – Chop Chop

Treatment
At the end of 2014, I was feeling pretty good celebrating 4 years since my first 'big' surgery in 2010. It prompted me to write an article Surgery - the gift that keeps on giving. In that particlar article, I really just wanted to say I was grateful for the early surgical treatment and as I was just about to spend another Christmas with my family, I was reminiscing what a wonderful gift it was at the time. Other than some detail of the surgery, I didn't get too technical, I just wanted to generate a thankful and festive mood. However, a recent private message from a subscriber prompted me to study the current benefits of surgery for Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) in more detail just to ensure my understanding was still in line with best practice. …
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Colonoscopy Comedy

Colonoscopy Comedy

Humour, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
Share on facebook Facebook Share on twitter Twitter Share on pinterest Pinterest Share on whatsapp WhatsApp Share on email Email Last year I wrote a series of articles on the 'coping' side of cancer, one of which was about still being able to have a laugh. This was my way of saying no matter how tough life is, you need to stay positive and maintain your sense of humour. When I think back to some of the treatments I've had, I sometimes have a little laugh even although I wasn't laughing at the time! My favourite 'treatment laugh' is the 'suppository story' which occurred in hospital shortly after my first major surgery - it wasn't funny at the time but I smile when I think back to it. On a…
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Turning a negative into a postive

General
[caption id="attachment_2625" align="alignleft" width="400"] Lung Cancer Breathalyser[/caption] Interesting piece in the news today and there's an amazing story behind it.  The "Lung Cancer Breathalyser" is not a new technology but following the death of his wife from advanced colon cancer, inventor Billy Boyle has produced something good enough to have been accepted on a trial basis by the NHS. If successful, it has the potential to save thousands of lives. Lung Cancer is a big killer and the survival rate at Stage 4 is around 5%. Let's hope this invention works. When I was reading the article, I immediately recognised his wife as a blogger I was following and who died on Christmas day after fighting advanced colon cancer for 2 years.  Her final and penultimate blogs are very inspiring and worth reading. Her…
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Lanreotide – Four more years

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
This post has been superseded by the following: Lanreotide: it's calling the shots - click here. Lanreotide:  10 more years please! - click here. Lanreotide vs Octreotide - click here. Original post: The UK general election steps up a gear this month and social media is playing a huge part in the debate leading up to 7 May 2015.  In the USA, the different parties are busily working on their candidates ready for 2016. It appears that politicians worldwide, are keen to exploit all areas of communication to eke out votes from the young and old who now use social media on a scale which makes 4 or 5 years ago look prehistoric. In 2012, Barack Obama's 'four more years' tweet was the biggest retweeted post ever up to that point after he thanked his 22 million…
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Intelligent patients – just what the doctor didn’t order

General
  [caption id="attachment_5440" align="aligncenter" width="309"] This blog was featured by Carcinoid Cancer Foundation[/caption]   I'm extremely pleased and honoured to have been selected as the first guest contributor to feature in the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation's blog site! I've been following these guys since I was diagnosed.  They have been serving the Carcinoid/NET Community for over 44 Years and they are in my opinion the largest and most respected Carcinoid Cancer organisation on the planet. The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation began as the ‘Carcinoid Tumor and Serotonin Research Foundation’ in 1968 when the NIH fund for rare cancers was terminated. The name was changed to the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation in 1995. It is a non-profit organization chartered by the State of New York for the purpose of encouraging and supporting research and education…
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