It’s been 5 years since I saw a scalpel (….but my surgeon is still on speed dial)

It’s been 5 years since I saw a scalpel (….but my surgeon is still on speed dial)

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
5 years ago today, I had a bunch of lymph nodes removed. Two separate areas were resected, only one was showing growth but both were showing up as hotspots on an Octreoscan.  I had known since shortly after diagnosis in 2010 that 'hotspots' were showing in my left 'axillary' lymph nodes (armpit) and my left 'supraclavicular fossa' (SCF) lymph nodes (clavicle area). Some 10 months previously, I had a major liver resection and 5 months prior to the liver resection, I had a small intestinal primary removed including work on some associated complications.  There had always been a plan to optimise cytoreduction of my distant metastases, it was just a matter of timing. I still can't get my head round why metastases from a small intestinal NET managed to get to this area but not others! Distant nodal metastasis treatment…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – tumour markers and hormone levels

Neuroendocrine Cancer – tumour markers and hormone levels

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
I think most people have had a form of medical testing at some point in their life, i.e. the sampling and testing of blood, urine, saliva, stool or body tissue. In a nutshell, the medical staff are just measuring the content of a 'substance' and then taking a view whether this is normal or not based on pre-determined ranges. These tests are normally done as a physician's reaction to symptom presentation or maintenance/surveillance of an existing diagnosed condition. Sometimes, abnormal results will lead to more specialist tests. In cancer, these tests are frequently called 'markers'. Most tumour markers are made by normal cells as well as by cancer cells; however, they are produced at much higher levels in cancerous conditions. These substances can be found in the blood, urine, stool, tumour…
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Serotonin – the NET effect

Serotonin – the NET effect

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs
[caption id="attachment_14036" align="aligncenter" width="750"] A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have used high-powered microscopes for the first time to view serotonin activating its receptor[/caption] Background I'd never heard of Serotonin until I was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer in 2010.  It is frequently discussed, often with contrasting views from the respondents. One common assumption/question is that it is responsible for many things that can go wrong with Neuroendocrine Cancer patients who have serotonin-producing tumours. "It's the hormones" is an easy assumption to make or an easy answer to give in response to a complex set of circumstances.  It's difficult to get a definitive answer and the science behind the behaviour of our hormones isn't really 100% tied down. You may see serotonin referred to as a 'neurotransmitter', a 'chemical' and a 'hormone' - this is complex…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – it can be ‘smoke and mirrors’

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
In a previous life, I used the term 'smoke and mirrors' quite a bit.  I was used to dealing with many different types of people, some who wanted something, some who wanted to buy or sell something. Most of the time it was overt but the devil was usually in the detail.  Sometimes there was an element of 'covertness' or a 'hidden agenda'.  It was always tricky working out the details of the hidden agenda and sometimes it was only known when it was too late.  Some of you will already be seeing where I'm going with this line of thinking - if so, you worked out my hidden agenda! 'Smoke and Mirrors' is basically a term connected to the art of deception, a con trick, a way in through confusion and…
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Running in the Family – Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN)

Running in the Family – Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN)

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs
We all know that Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) and their syndromes are complex but there is even more complexity to be found in a group of related disorders known as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN).  I recommend all NET patients should try to understand the basics of MEN and vice versa, particularly as both conditions seem to come with a plethora of endocrine related effects. Overview MEN patients will normally have a tumour in at least two endocrine glands - thus the terms 'Multiple' and 'Endocrine' (tumours can also develop in other organs and tissues).  Neoplasia is just another name for tumour and these can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) with the potential to metastasize. MEN syndromes can comprise varying combinations of tumours and many will be aware of the tumour risks from family knowledge.  So putting…
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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 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 Cancer Nutrition Series Article 1 – Vitamin and Mineral Challenges

Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 1 – Vitamin and Mineral Challenges

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
Always speak to your specialist before taking vitamin and mineral supplements Featuring Tara Whyand. Despite 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…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Hormones

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Hormones

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs
Until I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer, I didn't have a clue about hormones - it's one of those things you just take for granted. However, hormones are vital to human health (male and female) and it's only when things go wrong you suddenly appreciate how important they are ........like a lot of other things in life I suppose! The presence of over-secreting hormones (often called peptides throughout) is useful to aid diagnosis albeit it often (but not always) means the tumours have metastasized. It's also a frequent indication that the person has an associated NET syndrome. This is a really complex area and to understand the hormone problems associated with Neuroendocrine Cancer, you need to have a basic knowledge of the endocrine and neuroendocrine systems.  I've no intention…
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