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…
Read More
Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor (and where to find a NET Specialist Worldwide)

Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor (and where to find a NET Specialist Worldwide)

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
On the day I was diagnosed, I hadn't really thought about questions, the only one I actually remember asking was "how long do I have left to live" (I watch too many movies!). On the day of diagnosis and a period beyond, people tend to feel emotions of shock, denial, anger and sadness, before going on to accept their situation. Yes, I 'googled' but not a great deal really - although some things I found did frighten me. I wish I had found this article way back then. As things progressed in the weeks after 'D-Day', I started to work out the sort of things to ask but even then it was limited. I had been referred to an experienced NET team so I felt confident they would do whatever…
Read More
Neuroendocrine Tumours: a spotlight on Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

Neuroendocrine Tumours: a spotlight on Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

Awareness, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
  I spend a lot of time talking about the most common forms of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs), but what about the less well-known types?  As part of my commitment to all types of NETs, I'd like to shine a light on two less common tumour types known as Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas - incidence rate approximately 8 per million per year. They are normally grouped together and the definitions below will confirm why.  If you think it's difficult to diagnose a mainstream NET, this particular sub-type is a real challenge. So, let's get definitions out of the way: Pheochromocytomas (Pheo for short) Pheochromocytomas are tumours of the adrenal gland that produce excess adrenaline. They arise from the central portion of the adrenal gland, which is called the adrenal medulla (the remainder…
Read More

NET Syndromes – chicken or egg?

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
We’ve all heard the age-old question about the chicken and the egg?  Scientists claimed to have 'cracked' the riddle of whether the chicken or the egg came first. The answer, they say, is the chicken. Researchers found that the formation of egg shells relies on a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries. Therefore, an egg can exist only if it has been inside a chicken. There you have it! On a similar subject, I'm often confused when someone says they have been diagnosed with 'Carcinoid Syndrome' and not one of associated 'Neuroendocrine Tumours'.  So which comes first?  I guess it's the way you look at it. In terms of presentation, the syndrome might look like it comes first, particularly in cases of metastatic/advanced disease or other complex scenarios.  Alternatively, a tumour…
Read More
Neuroendocrine Cancer: Troublesome Thyroids

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Troublesome Thyroids

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
In 2013, just when I thought everything seemed to be under control, I was told I had a 'lesion' on the left upper lobe of my thyroid.  At the time, it was a bit of a shock as I had already been subjected to some radical surgery and wondered if this was just part of the relentless march of metastatic NET disease.  The thyroid gland does in fact get mentioned frequently in NET patient discussions but many of the conversations I monitored didn't seem to fit my scenario - cue relentless study! I've been meaning to write this blog for some time but here is a synopsis of my research translated into 'patient speak'.  This is intentionally brief, it's a big subject.  I'll finish off with an update on where I am with my thyroid issue. Where…
Read More

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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More