NETwork with Ronny © – Newsletter November 2016

NETwork with Ronny © – Newsletter November 2016

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
  [caption id="attachment_8478" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Please share me![/caption]   Hi, welcome to my first newsletter, a pilot for a monthly summary of NET news, views and ICYMI (in case you missed it!). What a month November has been - we had NET Cancer Day build up and I've been working hard to put on a good show for the 2016 WEGO Health Activist Awards (results expected around 6/7 Dec) whilst at the same time maintain my other campaigning activity across a wide range of social media platforms.  Due to increased activity, I recorded the second highest monthly viewing figures ever - over 13,000 hits on my blog site in one month (and even more on Facebook).  Not bad for a little backstreet disease - but my intention is to take it to the high…
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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…
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Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NEN) – benign vs malignant

Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NEN) – benign vs malignant

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs
OPINION: One of the most controversial aspects of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms, in particular low grade Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs), is the 'benign vs malignant' question.  It's been widely debated and it frequently patrols the various patient forums and other social media platforms. It raises emotions and it triggers many responses ..... at least from those willing to engage in the conversation. At best, this issue can cause confusion, at worst, it might contradict what new patients have been told by their physicians (....or not been told). I don't believe it's an exact science and can be challenging for a NET specialist let alone a doctor who is not familiar with the disease. NANETS Guidance talks about the '...heterogeneous clinical presentations and varying degrees of aggressiveness' and '...there are many aspects to the treatment of neuroendocrine…
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“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy”

“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy”

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
If there's a word which is synonymous with cancer, it's chemotherapy.  It's what most people have in their mind when they are talking to a cancer patient...... 'have you had chemotherapy' or 'when do you start chemotherapy'. I was nonchalantly asked by a friend some time ago 'how did you get on with chemotherapy' - he was surprised to hear I hadn't had it despite my widespread disease.  Cue - lengthy explanation!  I wasn't annoyed by the question, I just think people automatically assume every cancer patient has to undergo some form of systemic chemotherapy.  If you read any newspaper article about cancer, they do nothing to dispel that myth, as many articles contain a story about a cancer patient with no hair. Sure, chemotherapy is not the nicest treatment to receive and it does have pretty…
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One every 2 hours

One every 2 hours

Awareness
  I've made no secret of the fact that I don't believe Neuroendocrine Cancer is rare and you can read why in some detail in my article Neuroendocrine Cancer - not as rare as you think.  Better diagnostic technology, greater awareness and better recording of the correct disease in national cancer registries. The latest figures for Public Health England (covering ~90% of UK), indicate there are now 4800 diagnoses of NETs every year, i.e. more people than ever are being diagnosed, It is calculated from an incidence rate of 9/100,000 (using the 2011 census for England of 53,000,000) The new figures do not include Lung Neuroendocrine Carcinomas (LCNEC and SCLC) - so it is understated. This would appear to debunk the myth that the condition is rare given that the…
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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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Living with NETs – a patients included award winning site

Living with NETs – a patients included award winning site

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
It's no secret that I and other patients (see picture below) have been helping Ipsen Group and their website consultants (Kanga Health) with a new site designed to support and help all Neuroendocrine Tumour patients.  It was subsequently launched on NET Cancer Day 2016 and is very aptly named 'Living with NETs'.  Very pleased to see all this hard work recognised at the 2018 Eye for Pharma awards for the Most Valuable Patient Initiative.  And, this is great awareness for Neuroendocrine Cancer at a major pharma event. I'm also delighted to be speaking alongside Ipsen as the EyeforPharma Patients Summit event in London on Oct 16th 2018. I'm quite excited about this new initiative from Ipsen Group (the manufacturers of Somatuline (Lanreotide)) and not only because I feature on the site…
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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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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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WEGO Health Patient Leader Ronny Allan – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

WEGO Health Patient Leader Ronny Allan – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
This is what taking part in the WEGO Awards means to me Background In 2016, I was nominated for 6 awards, got to the final for 2 (Blog and Community) and then won the Best in Show Community award. In 2017, I was nominated for 3 and got to the final in all 3 - unfortunately I did not win any of them due to fierce competition. Here we are in 2018 and I've been nominated for 5 awards and made to the final in the Blog category.  This is not only another great opportunity for me as a blogger and health activist but also a further opportunity for Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness. The winners of the 2018 awards will be announced over the period 26-28 Sep 2018. Check out WEGO's…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – not average, just mean

Neuroendocrine Cancer – not average, just mean

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
  [caption id="attachment_9913" align="alignnone" width="506"] incidence rising faster than all other malignant neoplasms[/caption] Most people have perceptions of cancer in their heads, fairly fixed perceptions too.  They think about all the stuff they see daily on TV, in the main press, and people they know.  The big cancers set the scene. Most doctors know about the big cancers.  They also know how to treat them, many of them have a fairly fixed regime of surgery/chemotherapy/radiotherapy.  Many survivors will have side effects of their treatments, e.g.perhaps temporarily losing their hair.  More people are now surviving these cancers and many will be declared disease-free or placed into some sort of remission status (no evidence of disease is a common term I see). Most NETs are not like that!  Whilst it has a reputation…
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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!

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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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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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 – 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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Chemotherapy for Neuroendocrine Cancer

Chemotherapy for Neuroendocrine Cancer

Awareness, Technical NETs, Treatment
Chemotherapy and Neuroendocrine Cancer One of the unusual aspects of Neuroendocrine Cancer is that chemotherapy is not normally considered as a 'standard' treatment unlike many other cancers. One exception is high grade (Grade 3) where it is often a first and/or second line therapy.  Poorly differentiated Neuroendocrine disease is normally labelled as Neuroendocrine Carcinoma (NEC) but worth pointing out there is now a Grade 3 well differentiated classification known as a 'Grade 3 NET' rather than Grade 3 NEC. Depending on Ki67 score, there could be differing treatment options for Grade 3 NET and Grade 3 NEC.  Read more in my articles Staging and Grading and High Grade. Many people think Chemotherapy has a short life span due to recent advances in medical science, some citing Immunotherapy as it's replacement.…
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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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Every Day is NET Cancer Day!

Every Day is NET Cancer Day!

Awareness, Inspiration, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion.  In 2014, I experienced 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 major 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 of NET Cancer patients, specialists,…
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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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