Carcinoid – What’s in a name?

Carcinoid – What’s in a name?

Awareness, Technical NETs
A quick primer on the word 'CARCINOID'.  It originates from the term 'Carcinoma-like'.  'CARCIN' is a truncation of Carcinoma (by definition cancerous or malignant tumour). 'OID' is a suffix meaning 'resembling' or 'like'.  This infers that Carcinoid cannot be a truly malignant tumour - thus the confusion (..... and anger!). The most worrying connotation of the use of the word ‘Carcinoid’ is the belief that they all have benign clinical and biological behaviour.  That is dangerous thinking which could end up killing people. There is now widespread use of the term Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) and this is based on the latest classification scheme pushed out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2010 subsequently updated by WHO 2017.  The correct term for all types is actually Neuroendocrine Neoplasm (NEN) which is an umbralla…
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Patient power – use it!

Inspiration, Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_4931" align="alignleft" width="300"] Team Effort[/caption] I recently wrote a blog entitled "Trust me, I'm a Doctor" which was a genuine attempt to say that we should try to work with our Doctors.  However, I also covered the issues that Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients face in finding someone who understands their disease and how best to treat it; and that can on occasion lead to issues with doctor-patient relationships and communication.  The blog then commented on a number of tips for better doctor-patient relationship and communication.  These tips were provided by a Doctor via my friends in Cancer Knowledge Network. In the blog above, there was an underlying theme indicating certain cancer patients might need to know more about their disease than would be considered normal and that can influence the nature of the…
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Sometimes you just gotta climb that hill!

Sometimes you just gotta climb that hill!

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
It was wet, windy and very cold and that was at the bottom of the hill I'm looking up at. It wasn't a terribly big hill but I knew it would need considerable effort and perhaps some temporary pain. Whilst the rain splashed onto our jackets and the wind howled, Chris and I looked at each other and we almost simultaneously said "do we really want to go up that in this weather?"  Oh yes ....... no pain, no gain! So we went up the hill and it hurt. Up there, it was wetter, windier and colder! However, the 'euphoric high' was worth it.  It was like medicine healing the body and mind. [caption id="attachment_4988" align="aligncenter" width="535"] Go on, climb that hill![/caption] [caption id="attachment_4990" align="aligncenter" width="960"] we made it[/caption] The 'euphoric…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Incurable is not untreatable

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Incurable is not untreatable

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
  OPINION. When I was being officially told I had an advanced and incurable cancer, I did what most people seem to do on films/TV ..... I asked "how long do I have".  The Oncologist said " ... perhaps just months".  That must have been quite a shock because for a few moments after that, I heard nothing - my brain was clearly still trying to process those words - I wasn't even feeling unwell! The really important bit I missed was him go on to say "...but with the right treatment, you should be able to live for a lot longer".  Fortunately, my wife Chris heard it all and I was refocused.  "OK Doc - let's go" I said.  Always take someone with you to take notes at important meetings with Oncologists! [caption id="attachment_16343" align="aligncenter" width="640"]…
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Innovation at Royal Free – Lung Biopsy and Radio Frequency Ablation Service

Technical NETs, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_4852" align="alignleft" width="301"] Image with permission from Dr Sam Hare (www.lungdiagnosis.com)[/caption] A team of radiologists and respiratory consultants who introduced a new and more efficient lung biopsy method at Barnet Hospital London, has been named the winner of the NHS Innovation Challenge Prize in the ‘cancer care’ category.  Barnet Hospital is run by the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust which is well known for its Neuroendocrine Cancer Centre of Excellence. Not happy with this, they've now gone on to introduce a new service combining this innovative biopsy system with Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) of tumours in the same procedure. Combined Biopsy with Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) This new service has significant advantages for those who have localised tumours less than 3cm and can't for whatever reason have surgery.  I've checked with…
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Ignore this post about Neuroendocrine Cancer

Ignore this post about Neuroendocrine Cancer

Awareness
When I was diagnosed, I wasn't feeling ill. In hindsight, I now know some of the signs were there, I just put up with them. Neuroendocrine Cancer had laid a trap for me and I fell right into it. You see, Neuroendocrine Cancer can be very quiet and unobtrusive. It also plays the 'long game' and will sometimes take years before it's finally discovered.  It is very very very sneaky. Not satisfied with loitering in your small intestine, appendix, lungs, stomach, pancreas and a host of other places, it wants to reach out to your liver, your lymph nodes, your bones, bung you up with fibrosis, and get into your heart where it can cause the most damage. It will also try to get into your head, metaphorically speaking - however, it will…
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NET Cancer Blog – 2015 in review

General
The WordPress.com stats team have prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog.  Special thanks to those who got a mention! Why not review my posts which received a 2015 Mention in Despatches ? Here's an excerpt: Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. Click here to see the complete report.
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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

General
Over 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. Those 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 'pink' thing). I've even seen this term used within my own community - 'Not all cancer is pink, some…
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Lanreotide – it’s calling the shots!

Lanreotide – it’s calling the shots!

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
  Please note a new syringe for Lanreotide will be available in 2019, at least in Ireland and UK which have confirmed dates (UK is end of June rollout begins).  However, Ipsen are committed to roll it out to the rest of Europe, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand by end of 2019 (details to follow) following necessary regulatory approvals.  See photos below. Further information will be communicated to healthcare professionals in advance of this, to enable them to inform their patients, whom have been prescribed Lanreotide. In addition, the patient information leaflet included in the packet will have clear instructions for use. There will be a prominent yellow box located on the outer carton of the medicine, alerting healthcare professionals and patients that a new syringe is contained inside.…
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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
  [caption id="attachment_14806" align="aligncenter" width="785"] Wilko Johnson performing at The Royal Albert Hall, London on 26th September 2017[/caption] I recently blogged about a well-known BBC political reporter who has a 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…
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My Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – a patient experience (part 2)

My Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – a patient 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 :-) Surprisingly,…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – a difficult jigsaw

Neuroendocrine Cancer – a difficult jigsaw

Awareness, 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 less common disease :-)  I also started…
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Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – Grade and Stage (incorporating WHO 2017 changes)

Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – Grade and Stage (incorporating WHO 2017 changes)

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs
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 2017 approved terms in this post: 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 (an explanation of differentiation will be provided below) Neuroendocrine Carcinoma (NEC) - all poorly differentiated tumours…
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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 scans? ‘Scanxiety’  - I just don't get it  ......or more accurately I just don't get overly anxious about having a scan or…
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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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I bet my flush beats yours?

I bet my flush beats yours?

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_7911" align="aligncenter" width="500"] There are different types of flush![/caption] Neuroendocrine Cancers 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 Neuroendocrine Cancer 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 Neuroendocrine Cancer can be extremely challenging.  Even for an experienced doctor, it can be a difficult jigsaw! Most types of Neuroendocrine Cancer can be accompanied by a 'syndrome' i.e. the tumours are 'functional' and…
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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, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
OPINION The build up to 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? For those unaware, the term 'Zebra' is a North American medical slang for arriving at an 'exotic' medical diagnosis when a more commonplace explanation is more likely.  The original context of the term was to correctly indicate that the most obvious diagnosis of symptoms is normally correct - i.e. hoofbeats is almost always the sound of a horse. "When you hear hoofbeats,…
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Neuroendocrine…..the little suckers get everywhere!

Neuroendocrine…..the little suckers get everywhere!

Awareness, Technical NETs
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 over 500 likes and over 40 shares so far. There are some great comments on the post and the one which…
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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
[caption id="attachment_3720" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Perceptions[/caption] 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…
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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, Technical NETs, 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, Technical NETs
Background Although 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 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 rate as at 2012 of 7/100,000 for all NETs.  The rare threshold in Europe is 5/100,000 and below.  They're not common (in incidence rate terms which means the numbers diagnosed each…
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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…
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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…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Neuroendocrine Cancer Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
OPINION When 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. Joining Forums In 2013, I joined several large Facebook closed groups which function as forums. After 4 years, I felt more experienced and knowledgeable and I wanted to learn more about the disease to help with my blog…
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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, Technical NETs
[caption id="attachment_3076" align="aligncenter" width="350"] You have what?[/caption] 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…
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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
  [caption id="attachment_3050" align="aligncenter" width="620"] “But it works… I read it in the news!”[/caption] 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 majority of…
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Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
OPINION There'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. You may have noticed that 'Carcinoid' is often used as a standalone word and tends not to be suffixed with the word 'Cancer' or 'Tumour' - unlike Bowel Cancer, Breast Cancer, Prostrate Cancer, Lung Cancer, Brain Tumour, etc.  Nobody goes around saying "Breast" or "Bowel" do they?  But they happily say "Carcinoid".  Unfortunately, the term ‘Carcinoid’ has become entrenched in both pathology and clinical literature over the past 100 years. The main problem with the word Carcinoid is that it means different things to different people. Some use the term almost exclusively to designate serotonin-producing tumours that arise from the enterochromaffin cells that can…
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No Fear

No Fear

Inspiration, Survivorship
It's that time again, every 6 months I need some checks. I've done the specialist blood test (Chromogranin A - CgA) and the 24 hour urine (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.  Happy days :-) 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 of 'not so good news', I still see that as a positive because it…
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The trouble with the ‘NET’ – Part 1 – Cancer Myths

The trouble with the ‘NET’ – Part 1 – Cancer Myths

Patient Advocacy
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 a study published last month, 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…
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Do you suffer from NET Brain?

Do you suffer from NET Brain?

Awareness, Humour
[caption id="attachment_2728" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This isn't me by the way![/caption] 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…
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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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Disobedient Objects

General
[caption id="attachment_2510" align="alignleft" width="300"] Disobedient Object[/caption] My wife and I were in London recently and we took the opportunity to visit the world-famous Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in South Kensington.  A particular display caught my eye entitled "Disobedient Objects" and I immediately thought it had a scientific sound to it.  Imagining a set of everyday objects which somehow didn't behave as you would expect, it sounded great fun so I wandered in.  How wrong I was, it was actually an exhibition examining the powerful role of objects in movements for social change.  The term 'disobedient' was used as these objects were designed by grassroots social movements mostly for use in street protests.  These ranged from bike locks for chaining your head to a fence to makeshift tear gas masks; to large inflatable cobblestones designed to act as a…
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The Mother of all Surgeries

The Mother of all Surgeries

Treatment
[caption id="attachment_2338" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Surgery[/caption] My plan for this week's blog was to continue with a surgery theme using the story of a lady who had what was described as the "Mother of all Surgeries" after being late diagnosed with a very rare and advanced type of appendiceal cancer. With NETs, surgery is a topical subject as not everyone will be able to have it and some might not even need it. Check out my blog "to cut or not to cut". I suggested in a previous blog that 'Surgery is a gift that keeps on giving' and that is probably true for many cancer survivors. However, I then added that NETs were one of a small number of tumours for which surgical debulking can provide some survival advantage for those with metastatic and incurable disease. In my own case, I've…
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End of the year but not end of the mission

General
[caption id="attachment_2374" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Ronny & Chris Allan - festive sweaters :-)[/caption] Hope you all had a nice festive break?  Chris and I had 3 separate dinners making sure we made the most of our extended family base.  We decided to join in the Christmas jumper fashion statement which seems to be vogue this year - thus the picture!  At least we got to wear them 3 times! Now that busy period is over, I've had the chance to reflect on the last 8 months of blogging and look forward to my plans for 2015. I created this blog site on 29 Apr 2014 mainly to document an 84 mile charity hike across Hadrian's Wall - a World Heritage site in the North of England near the border with Scotland.  I was just a 'learner'…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – not an exact Science

Neuroendocrine Cancer – not an exact Science

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
I've been interested in science since my school days and seem to remember it being separated into Biology, Physics and Chemistry for study and examination purposes. Biology wasn't on my radar and as I found Chemistry boring, I focused on Physics which seemed to be more 'modern' and exciting. Curiously, at the beginning of my Open University degree course some 25 years later, I found the Biology and Chemistry modules of my foundation year the most enjoyable part of the whole 6 year study.  Different teaching methods? different teachers?  Perhaps, but I suspect some maturity was involved plus a hunger for new knowledge. I seem to have caught the learning bug again since being diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer (NET Cancer).  Like many other NET Cancer patients, I feel I need to know a lot more than the average cancer patient.  For me, this can be attributed to a number of…
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Tobacco and Cancer: A smoking gun?

General
I've never smoked so I'm reasonably confident my own cancer experience is not related to this type of personal lifestyle.  I did, however, grow up in a world where smoking was widespread and a generally accepted behaviour. We now know that smoking causes more than four in five cases of lung cancer. Lung cancer not only has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, but is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK.  Shockingly, most of these deaths are preventable, by giving up smoking in time or not starting at all. Smoking also increases the risk of at least 13 other cancers including the larynx (voice box), oesophagus (gullet), mouth and pharynx (throat), bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, ovary, nose and sinus, and some types of leukaemia. There is also some evidence…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – early diagnosis, not early misdiagnosis?

General
The papers and social media seem to be full of awareness and early diagnosis articles this month.  This coincided with world NET Cancer Day on 10 Nov and world Pancreatic Cancer day on 13 Nov.  Social media was, therefore, buzzing with messages from organisations supporting and advocating for both of these cancer types.  These issues also made it to the conventional media outlets of newspapers, radio and television.  Last week I watched a clip from the UK national news, where 7-year survivor of Pancreatic Cancer Ali Stunt was telling the nation about the top 3 symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer and I was struck by the similarities with NET Cancer. However what really caught my ear was Ali saying how important it was for individuals to think whether the symptoms they…
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Every Day is World NET Day!

Every Day is World NET Day!

Awareness, Inspiration, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion: In 2014, I experienced (so called) NET Cancer Day (10 Nov) on a major scale for the first time since its inception. Prior to that, it didn't really do that much for me.  Spookily, I even woke up on 10 Nov 2010 after a major 9 hour surgery.  Read about this here - I even woke up on November 10th after major surgery. The build up to these events normally doesn't start in earnest until around 3 months prior to 10 Nov. On or around this day, people meet up, patient conferences and support meetings are held, thousands of tweets and Facebook posts are published, people make and eat cakes, and money is raised. I suspect awareness of NETs benefits but these things can quickly be forgotten outside the rather small world…
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I woke up on NET Cancer day (…… now World NET Day)

I woke up on NET Cancer day (…… now World NET Day)

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_10856" align="alignnone" width="300"] Featured this post[/caption] [caption id="attachment_10865" align="alignnone" width="252"] Featured this post[/caption] It was 10th November 2010 just after midnight. I gradually woke up after a marathon 9 hour surgery - the first of what was to be several visits to an operating theatre.  The last thing I remembered before going 'under' was the voices of the surgical staff. When I woke up, I remember it being dark and I appeared to be constrained and pinned down by the dozen or so tubes going in and out of my weak and battered body.  I can still remember the feeling today, it was like I was pinned to the bed and I was completely vulnerable and helpless.  However, what I mainly remember was my wife Chris holding my hand which gave me a…
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The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

Awareness
OPINION.  Sometimes when I'm searching for cancer information, I'm presented with a 'pick-list' of types which mostly tend to be anatomy based.  I do find it annoying when I cannot find my own cancer on the list .....some respectable organisations are just not as up to date as they should be!  I can now totally understand why so many Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients have become their own advocates and why they have to shout quite loud for recognition and understanding. One of the key facets of NETs is that it is not tied to a particular part of the human anatomy. Unlike (say) lung cancer, where the primary is in the lung, or breast cancer where the primary can be found in the breast, neuroendocrine tumours arise from a cell type which can be present more or less…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – shh! Can you hear it? (…..I didn’t)

Neuroendocrine Cancer – shh! Can you hear it? (…..I didn’t)

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_4472" align="aligncenter" width="550"] shh! - can you hear it? I didn't.[/caption] The sooner any cancer can be correctly diagnosed, the better chances of a curative scenario for the person concerned.  However, some cancers are in the 'difficult to diagnose' category.  Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) are in this category due to the vague symptoms which may be mistaken for other diseases and routine illnesses. This is one of the reasons there have been many lengthy diagnostic delays.  In many cases, it can be very quiet leading to incidental diagnosis at an advanced stage. It's SNEAKY! In some cases it can be a little bit noisy. For example, some of the most common misdiagnoses appears to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), asthma, or menopause.  Patients complain of abdominal pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, diarrhea, flushing, palpitations and a whole…
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Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

General
When Tony Blair swept to power in 1997, he said:  "Ask me my three main priorities for government and I tell you education, education, and education".  His approach of repeated word emphasis has been copied and recycled by many others replacing the words with something to suit their own message.  I'm now guilty of similar plagiarism! NET Cancer is rare and as a consequence has a small community of sufferers and specialists. It does not get the same levels of publicity, funding and research that the bigger patient population and more common cancers receive.  It therefore needs 'team work' to send a bigger and more powerful awareness message.  Thus why the World NET Community formed in Berlin in March 2010.  This is a group of NET cancer patient organisations from countries as…
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Living with an incurable cancer – does mind over matter help?

Living with an incurable cancer – does mind over matter help?

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
When I started blogging in 2014, it was relatively easy - all I needed to do was to talk about my experience to help raise awareness of Neuroendocrine Cancer; then talk about my hike along Hadrian's Wall for a local Charity.  The blog was only ever intended to be a temporary supporting tool for the walk and its build up; but I was persuaded by good reviews and viewing numbers to keep it going.  That suddenly made it more difficult! In my early blogs, there were several 'no go areas' which were either too complex or potentially controversial.  I didn't really have much time to think them through properly at that point in time. However, I've since dabbled in some of these areas to test the waters.   I'm not a healthcare…
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Childhood Neuroendocrine Cancer – 1 in 7 million!

General
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!  The newspapers and social media will no doubt be featuring many child cancer articles and I notice the UK's top soap Coronation Street is already featuring such a story. I personally cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be a parent who has a child with cancer. I would just hope my child would be placed into the care and safe custody of experienced medical teams and would be able to get access to the best treatments available.  I don't know that much about Childhood cancers but the Cancer Research UK site has a nice summary on this page.  You will note that over half of childhood cancers are either Acute Leukaemias or Brain Cancer. I do know a lot about Neuroendocrine Cancer…
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If your Doctors don’t suspect something, they won’t detect anything!

If your Doctors don’t suspect something, they won’t detect anything!

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
Opinion: One of the most discussed and debated Cancer issues is late diagnosis. Cyberspace is full of disturbing stories and many different cancers are involved. Some cancers are notoriously difficult to diagnose meaning that awareness and education needs to extend from the general population into healthcare professionals at all levels. The latter is a challenge as first line physicians battle to deal with thousands of different conditions many of which have similar presentations. Neuroendocrine Neoplasms have a record of being difficult to diagnose which often leads to late diagnosis. Moreover, due to their often silent nature, a late diagnosis is often a default scenario as no intervention was possible without a symptomatic patient. Neuroendocrne Neoplasms - Under-diagnosed or Under-reported? Like many other Cancers, Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NEN) is one of a…
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Four years on

General
On Saturday, I glanced at the calendar on my phone and recognised the date as some sort of anniversary - 26 July.  It was exactly 4 years to the day I received my diagnosis of Metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer. It all began 2 months previously with a routine asthma clinic appointment when I mentioned to the Nurse Practitioner that I thought I'd lost half a stone in weight.  She immediately said "did you mean to lose the weight" and the answer was "no" on the basis that I just simply thought I was heavier.  As a precaution she sent me for a set of blood tests and then a retest.  I later marched into the GP's office (having been asked to come to the surgery) to hear the GP say "I…
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Diagnostic Challenges

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Treatment
I was checking my statistics this morning and found the most viewed post to date was published on the day Stephen Sutton passed away.   I didn't really want to jump onto the Stephen Sutton bandwagon but when I found on the day of his passing that it had taken 6 months to diagnose his bowel cancer, I knew this would be relevant to Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness, particularly important as it's one of the primary aims of my blog.  I'm thinking the top viewing score to date is not because it mentioned Stephen Sutton (sad as that event was) but because the issues he faced are well known to Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, many of whom are readers. In the past week, the newspapers have published several follow up articles on…
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North of the wall is a dangerous place – you must never go there!

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
  There was a 60 minute silence last night as another episode of Game of Thrones was aired.  Not a Facebook post or tweet in sight.  This has to be 'up there' in a list of the best TV series ever?  Don't know about you but I'm sometimes confused about who is who and how they are related and/or connected!  (see useful chart at the bottom of this post) Chris and I love the introduction bit.  She likes the music, I like the geography.  There are some obvious correlations there, e.g. 'The Wall' is meant to relate to Hadrian's Wall with those horrible barbarian Scots to the north :-)  Thank God Hadrian's Wall and the climate in particular, isn't as bad as portrayed on GOT!   I did contemplate using 'trousers' as…
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Always thank your Nurse – sometimes they’re the only one between you and a hearse!

Always thank your Nurse – sometimes they’re the only one between you and a hearse!

Inspiration, Patient Advocacy, Treatment
I had minimal exposure to nurses throughout the first 55 years of my life.  I did spend a night in hospital when I was 16 having been knocked unconscious in the boxing ring (you should've seen the other guy). Bar the odd mandatory injection, I avoided both boxing and nurses for many years after that. You may remember I discussed how my cancer was diagnosed following a fairly innocuous conversation at my GP's Surgery in May 2010, see blog post 'Diagnosis - I'm no longer in control'.  That nurse was professional, thorough and she clearly went the extra mile for her patients.  She has my eternal thanks for sending me down a different path in the game of chance that is life.  I often wonder where I would be now had she not ordered the 'just…
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