Neuroendocrine Cancer: Diagnosing the Undiagnosed

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Diagnosing the Undiagnosed

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
Neuroendocrine Cancer is one of a number of "difficult to diagnose" conditions. Many types of Neuroendocrine Cancer come with an associated syndrome and these syndromes can mimic everyday illnesses. In some cases, many people don't feel ill while the tumours grow. Most types of this cancer are slow-growing but there are also aggressive versions. Although things appear to be improving in diagnostic terms, it can sometimes take years for someone to be finally diagnosed correctly and get treatment, albeit in some cases, too late for any hope of a curative scenario. It's a very sneaky type of cancer and if left too long it can be life threatening - CLICK HERE to find out why. The road to a diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Cancer is often not straight or easy to…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: Ga68 PET Scan – a game changer?

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Ga68 PET Scan – a game changer?

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
When I was offered my very first Ga68 PET/CT at a 6 monthly surveillance meeting in May 2018, I was both excited and apprehensive. Let me explain below why I had a mix of emotions. I was diagnosed in 2010 with metastatic NETs clearly showing on CT scan, the staging was confirmed via an Octreotide Scan which in addition pointed out two further deposits above the diaphragm (one of which has since been dealt with). In addition to routine surveillance via CT scan, I had two further Octreotide Scans in 2011 and 2013 following 3 surgeries, these confirmed the surveillance CT findings of remnant disease. The third scan in 2013 highlighted an additional lesion in my thyroid (still under a watch and wait regime, biopsy inconclusive but read on....). To…
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“What are you doing this afternoon”

“What are you doing this afternoon”

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
On 8th July 2010, I was sat in front of a secondary care consultant, his speciality was colorectal. I asked specifically for this consultant for two reasons, firstly, he carried out a colonoscopy some 20 months previously which turned out to be negative. Secondly, my GP had referred me to the iron deficiency anaemia clinic, and they wanted to do ….. a colonoscopy.  I changed that plan because this "non-issue" was dragging on; quite frankly I wanted it to be resolved quickly, and I wanted it to be resolved in my favour - after all, I wasn't actually ill! Rewind two months, I had an incidental set of blood tests ordered by a nurse following a routine visit to my local medical centre (....... "I think I've lost a bit…
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Gallium 68 PET Scans – Into the Unknown

Gallium 68 PET Scans – Into the Unknown

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs
OPINION Cancer is a growth industry ...literally! More people are being diagnosed than ever before. Fortunately, more people are surviving than ever before. This is against a backdrop of better awareness, better screening in the big population cancers, and to a certain extent better diagnostic tools, all of which is leading to earlier diagnosis. So how does this affect Neuroendocrine Cancer? According to the latest SEER database figures for Neuroendocrine Cancer, one reason for the 7 fold increase in incidence rates since the 1970s is all of those things above including better diagnostics. This has led to a revised set of epidemiological information in many countries that have made the effort to accurately update their cancer registries and there are consistent reports of incidence rates way beyond the recognised rare…
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Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked

Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
  OPINION. There's a lot of inaccurate and out of date information out there.  Some is just a lack of understanding, often with a combination of patient forum myth spreading. Some can only be described as propaganda. Myth 1:  All Neuroendocrine Tumours are benign Not true.  By any scientific definition, the word 'tumour' means 'an abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumours may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous)'.  Sure, some NETs will be benign.  However, The World Health Organisation (WHO) 2010 classification for digestive system is based on the concept that all NETs have malignant potential, and has therefore abandoned the division into benign and malignant NETs and tumours of uncertain malignant potential.  This has been…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – If you can see it, you can normally detect it!

Neuroendocrine Cancer – If you can see it, you can normally detect it!

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs
[caption id="attachment_7944" align="alignnone" width="965"] Octreoscan vs Ga68 PET[/caption] Scanning is a key diagnostic support and surveillance tool for any cancer.  Even though you have elevated bloods or urine (....or not), a picture of your insides is really like a thousand words.... and each picture has a story behind it.  Scanning can be a game changer in the hunt for tumours and although scans do not normally confirm the cancer type and grade, they certainly help with that piece of detective work and are key in the staging of the cancer. When I read stories of people in a difficult diagnosis, I always find myself saying 'a scan might resolve this' and I always suggest people should try to get one.  Even in the case of a story about late diagnosis or a misdiagnosis, I find…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – my liver metastasis surgery

Neuroendocrine Cancer – my liver metastasis surgery

Technical NETs, Treatment
From day 1 of my diagnosis, I knew my liver was going to need some attention but I had always known that total removal of all tumours would not be possible. This critical organ did in fact produce the biopsy confirming Neuroendocrine Cancer. The early scans indicated multiple liver lesions and an Octreotide scan reported several quite avid isotope activity. However, as you can see from my clinical history, they first stabilised my syndrome via daily Octreotide so my tumours were subdued ready for major surgery 'round 1' which took place Nov 2010 - I wrote about this as Part 1 and Part 2 stories.  As we are talking about my liver, it's worth noting that a bland Liver Embolization was carried out prior to 'round 1' as there was…
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I’m only as good as my last scan

I’m only as good as my last scan

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_5240" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Scanning - a piece of cake![/caption] "I'm only as good as my last scan". I received this comment last week in response to one of my posts and I thought it was a very pragmatic thing for someone to say. A NET patient under surveillance has regular tests at determined intervals but the one that is most likely to spot disease progression, stability or regression is a scan. Markers such as (say) Chromogranin A (CgA) or 5HIAA are clearly useful but in an ongoing surveillance scenario, they alone would not be used as a firm declaration of progression, stability or regression. Every picture tells a story and a scan is normally the confirmation required whether it's a CT, MRI or PET (etc). IF YOU CAN SEE…
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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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Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Treatment
I enjoyed reading the recent blog 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 able to discuss these risks with their doctors. This got me thinking about my own experience which goes back to the autumn (fall) 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).  Another difficult issue for NETs can be the decision to cut or not to cut - as outlined in this article. NETs are not that much different to other Cancers in this respect - there…
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