Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumours – surgical decisions and new research on molecular sub-types

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumours – surgical decisions and new research on molecular sub-types

Research, Technical NETs
I offer you two subjects in one article but they are overlapping and very related. The piece of research in the 2nd half of the article is very exciting - did you know researchers have found there are two main sub-types of pNETs, one less likely to recur and metastasise than the other? This will hopefully lead to similar research in other types of Neuroendocrine Neoplasm. Background  I've written before about pancreatic NETs (pNETs), much of which has been on the awareness side of my advocacy work, particularly emphasising the differences with core Pancreatic Cancer (adenocarcinoma). Pancreatic NETs are quite difficult to diagnose and treat, some of that difficulty is due to the location of the pancreas and accessibility for surgeons and radiographers. It's not helped by the fact that…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: No one gets it until they get it

Neuroendocrine Cancer: No one gets it until they get it

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
Over the years of my advocating, I've tried to explain Neuroendocrine Cancer to many people outside the community.  Some 'get it' but many don't.  Most understand 'Cancer', they have real difficultly understanding 'Neuroendocrine'.  Despite how hard I try, I can see that some of them just don't get it! One of the challenges of explaining Neuroendocrine Cancer is the sheer complexity and spectrum of types. It's a heterogeneous grouping of cancers ranging from some quite indolent versions through to very aggressive versions similar to many dangerous adenocarcinomas.  Unlike many of the more understood cancers, Neuroendocrine Cancer can literally appear anywhere in the body, adding to an already complex description, in addition to creating a disadvantage of awareness opportunities because of the use of incorrect cancer types, clearly many doctors and…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: a needle in a haystack, primary vs secondary

Neuroendocrine Cancer: a needle in a haystack, primary vs secondary

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
It's no secret that Neuroendocrine Cancer can be difficult to diagnose. Although earlier diagnosis is improving (as reported in the SEER database report issued in 2017), there is still a lot of ground to cover. There are a number of reasons why these Neoplasms are often difficult to correctly and quickly  diagnose including but not limited to: - they grow silently, they often produce vague symptoms which can be mistaken for much more common illnesses, and their complexity is not fully understood. I wanted to cover two different aspects of the problem of finding NETs. Firstly, in finding the primary tumour so that the type of NET can be properly established - this drives the best treatment regime. Secondly in finding all the tumours, as this establishes the correct and…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: A Witch’s Brew of Signs and Symptoms

Neuroendocrine Cancer: A Witch’s Brew of Signs and Symptoms

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
One of the key awareness messages for Neuroendocrine Cancer is the hormonal syndromes that can often accompany the diagnosis for many people.  As it's a difficult disease to diagnose, many people struggle with these syndromes for some time before formal diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Cancer.  Some continue to struggle after. The cancer can often be uncannily quiet, but the tumours can be 'functional' and over-secrete certain hormones to add or introduce symptoms which mimic many other diseases or conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Menopause, Heart disease and Asthma.   In addition to common symptoms of flushing and diarrhea, others include generally feeling weak, fatigued, pain, agitated, anxious, dizzy, nauseous, acid reflux, skin irritation, anaemic, lose weight, gain weight, low blood sugar, high blood sugar, heart palpitations, headaches, sweating, high blood…
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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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Update:  Management of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Update: Management of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs, Treatment
This is an excellent and positive video based overview of where we are with the Management of NETs.  This is a presentation from a NET Specialist (who some of you may know) presenting to a "GI Malignancies" conference.  This is therefore not only awareness of NETs, it's also some good education for non NET GI experts who may only know the very basics. Useful for patients too!  I met Dr Strosberg in Barcelona (ENETS 2017) and thanked him for his presentational and scientific paper output which I often use in my articles. The classification picture is good as it explains the different facets of NETs and how NETs are classified and categorised in a general way - not seen it done this way before.   Slightly out of date as…
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Weight – the NET Effect

Weight – the NET Effect

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_11145" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Weight - The NET Effect[/caption] Firstly, let me say that I have no intention of advising you how to lose or gain weight!  Rather, I'd like to discuss what factors might be involved and why people with NETs might lose or gain weight either at diagnosis or after treatment.  Clearly I can talk freely about my own experience and associated weight issues. If nothing else, it might help some in thinking about what is causing their own weight issues. I once wrote a patient story for an organisation and the headline was "Did you mean to lose weight".  Those were actually the words a nurse said to me after I nonchalantly told her I thought I'd lost some weight (....about half a stone).  I answered the…
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Genetics and Neuroendocrine Tumors

Genetics and Neuroendocrine Tumors

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs
In my article 'Ever wonder what caused your NET', I concluded that currently, the only known scientifically explained causes for NETs were hereditary/genetic in nature.  This is mostly associated with those who have MEN syndromes (yes, they are a syndrome not a type of tumour) and a few other less common types of NET including Pheochomocytoma/Paraganglioma (Pheo/Para) and Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC) (the familial version of MTC is often referred to as FMTC). However, please note this does not mean that all those diagnosed with pancreatic, parathyroid, pituarity, Pheo/Para and MTC tumours, will have any hereditary or genetic conditions, many will simply be sporadic tumors. In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that a number of Neuroendocrine tumours arise as a result of germline genetic mutations and are inherited in…
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Cancer Isn’t All About Me

Cancer Isn’t All About Me

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_11078" align="alignleft" width="150"] As featured by Cure Magazine[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4318" align="aligncenter" width="500"] It's about others too[/caption] Since my diagnosis of incurable and metastatic neuroendocrine cancer in 2010, it's really all been about me. I didn’t see the trauma coming, and my family has supported me throughout every single step. I really don’t want to be the focus of attention as that mantle was normally evenly distributed. However, there’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to put you into the spotlight. Facing an uncertain future with regular scans, injections, treatment, pills, examinations and blood tests has made me the center of attention, whether I like it or not. The focus is on me because these things are necessary to keep me alive for as long as possible and also because I…
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The Invisible NET Patient Population 

The Invisible NET Patient Population 

Awareness, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Uncategorized
OPINION   I found some of the quotes from the recent NET SEER Database study (Dasari et al) very interesting.  The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program is a comprehensive source of population-based information initiated in 1973 that is updated annually. Although the study is US-based, it represents the largest study of Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs) ever recorded and is therefore a good guide to what might be found beyond USA. In fact, other national declarations of incidence and prevalence of NETs seem to bear these statistics out, i.e incidence rates of 7-8/100,000 ...... almost 7 times the rate recorded in the 1970s. If you want to understand the factors behind this massive increase, I covered this extensively in my post "Neuroendocrine Tumors – not as rare as…
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ASCO 2017 – Let’s talk about NETs #ASCO17

ASCO 2017 – Let’s talk about NETs #ASCO17

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) is one of the biggest cancer conferences in the world normally bringing together more than 30,000 oncology professionals from around the world to discuss state-of-the-art treatment modalities, new therapies, and ongoing controversies in the field.  As Neuroendorine Tumors is on a roll in terms of new treatments and continued research, we appear to be well represented with over 20 'extracts' submitted for review and display.  This is fairly complex stuff but much of it will be familiar to many.  I've filtered and extracted all the Neuroendocrine stuff into one list providing you with an easy to peruse table of contents, complete with relevant linkages if you need to read more.  For many the extract title and conclusion will be sufficiently educational or at least…
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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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In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
OPINION.  Date of Article March 2017.  In the last 24 months, there seems to have been announcement after announcement of new and/or upgraded/enhanced diagnostics and treatment types for Neuroendocrine Cancer.  Increased availability of radionuclide scans, increased availability of radionuclide therapies, combination therapies, increased availability of somatostatin analogues, biological therapies, enhanced surgical and minimally invasive techniques, new oral drugs for carcinoid syndrome, more trials including  immunotherapy. Admittedly, some of the announcements are just expansions of existing therapies having been approved in new regions. Compared to some other cancers, even those which hit the headlines often, we appear to be doing not too badly. However, the pressure needs to stay on, all patients, regardless of where they live, need access to the best diagnostics and treatments for them; and at the requisite time. This alone is…
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Recent Progress in NET Management – Positive presentation from Jonathan R Strosberg MD

Recent Progress in NET Management – Positive presentation from Jonathan R Strosberg MD

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs, Treatment
I recently wrote a blog called Neuroendocrine Cancer – Exciting Times Ahead! I wrote that on a day I was feeling particularly positive and at the time, I wanted to share that positivity with you. I genuinely believe there's a lot of great things happening. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot still to be done, particularly in the area of diagnosis and quality of life after being diagnosed. However, this is a really great message from a well-known NET expert. In an interview with OncLive, Jonathan R. Strosberg, MD, associate professor at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, discussed his presentation on NETs at a recent 2016 Symposium, and shed light on the progress that has been made in this treatment landscape. OncLive: Please highlight some of the main points from your…
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Road ahead closed – Bowel Obstructions

Road ahead closed – Bowel Obstructions

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
OK - we've gone through diagnosis, we've gone through treatment and now we need to live with the consequences of cancer and it's treatment.  Not a day goes by when I don't feel some twinge or some minor pain and I think 'what was that?'.  Fortunately, many things can just be day-to-day niggles. It's the cancer .... easy to say, sometimes not easy to prove. However, for Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients who have had surgery, anything that seems like a bowel obstruction is quite a scary thought (I suspect this is also an issue for other cancer types).  In fact, even before diagnosis, a bowel obstruction rears its head as it can be how the condition is diagnosed in the first place, i.e. pain leads to more pain and that can sometimes result in…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – were you irritated by your misdiagnosis?

Neuroendocrine Cancer – were you irritated by your misdiagnosis?

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs
Look on any site about Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) and you'll find the term IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) frequently mentioned. That's because it's a common misdiagnosis for many before being formally diagnosed with NETs. But what exactly is IBS, why is it such a common misdiagnosis for many NET patients and how can these misdiagnoses be prevented or reduced in future?  I just spent a few hours doing an online training course on IBS and I want to pass on some stuff I found to be very useful. I have never been diagnosed with IBS but having researched the issue through some training, I can understand why it might be in the thoughts of a general practitioner for many scenarios.  Much of my research was focussed on the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) who sponsored the online course I completed which also…
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Procrastination – it’s a killer

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="460"] Stiff upper lip[/caption] It's amazing to think that one minute I'm back from a holiday in the Caribbean and the next minute I'm being told the inside of my body is a 'train crash'. Just how does that work?  In July 2010, I said to the Gastroenterologist investigating my low hemoglobin "I'm not even feeling ill". He sent me to an Oncologist who then told me that without treatment, the prognosis wasn't good (i.e. I would eventually die). I also told him I wasn't feeling ill ....as if my protest was somehow going to reverse the situation! The term 'silent cancer' was apt in my case........  or was it my stiff upper lip? 20 months prior I had a colonoscopy after a short-term change of stool colour. Nothing…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
Diarrhea can be a symptom of many conditions but it is particularly key in Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) Syndromes and types, in particular, Carcinoid Syndrome but also in those associated with various other NET types such as VIPoma, PPoma, Gastrinoma, Somatostatinoma, Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma. Secondly, it can be a key consequence (side effect) of the treatment for Neuroendocrine Tumours and Carcinomas, in particular following surgery where various bits of the gastrointestinal tract are excised to remove and/or debulk tumour load. There are other reasons that might be causing or contributing, including (but not limited to) endocrine problems such as hyperthryoidism, mastocytosis or Addison's disease (which may be secondary illnesses in those with NETs).  It's also possible that 'non-sydromic' issues such as stress and diet are contributing. It could be caused by other things such as Irritable Bowel…
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What you don’t know might kill you

What you don’t know might kill you

Awareness, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_6337" align="aligncenter" width="700"] In Barbados Heaven.  I didn't know I had metastatic cancer but was about to find out on return to UK[/caption] A month before I was diagnosed in July 2010, Chris and I flew off to Barbados on holiday.  Both of us were looking forward to a nice break after a hectic start to 2010.  When we got back, we both agreed it was the most relaxing holiday we had ever been on. However, whilst I was lying on a sunbed soaking up the Caribbean sun drinking 'pina coladas', Neuroendocrine Tumours were growing in my small intestine, spreading into my mesenteric lymph nodes, into my liver, into my left armpit and into my left clavicle area.  The excess serotonin being released was causing a dense fibrotic retro-peritoneal reaction (desmoplasia)…
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Make some noise for a silent cancer

Make some noise for a silent cancer

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
One of the key aims of my blog is to create more awareness of Neuroendocrine Cancer (or NETs), its peculiarities, its effects, its ability to deceive, its ability to kill if left undetected and/or untreated; and its impact on Quality of Life (QoL). There are millions of people out there doing similar with thousands of other conditions. That means even to stand out a little, messages must be compelling, must attract attention; and must catch people's interest. In the last 36 months, I've generated a few 'different' awareness campaigns, some of which have been more successful than others and I learn from this.  One of them is actually now the most tweeted post about NETs on twitter.  Fortunately, I have had significant help from YOU because if you did not share my posts…
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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! I continue to see…
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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 gyneacological 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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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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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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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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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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Neuroendocrine Cancer Syndromes – Early Signs of a Late Diagnosis

Neuroendocrine Cancer Syndromes – Early Signs of a Late Diagnosis

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs, Treatment
One of the curious things about Neuroendocrine Cancer (NETs going forward) 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 syndrome,…
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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 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 activity. Be prepared!…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – don’t break my heart!

Neuroendocrine Cancer – don’t break my heart!

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, 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 Hedlinger 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…
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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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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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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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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 much more difficult to diagnose than others and this increases the need for more awareness and education campaigns. Under-diagnosed or Under-reported? Like many other Cancers, Neuroendocrine Cancer (known as Neuroendocrine Tumors or NETs) is one of a number of 'difficult to diagnose' conditions with some of its variants more difficult than others.  It's a less common form of cancer but with a fast rising incidence rate, possibly the fastest rising incidence rate of all cancers. In fact, its fast rising incidence rate has been a positive in some ways, contributing to awareness and the introduction of new treatments. In some respects, the incidence rate increase is due to people knowing more…
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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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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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