Olivia Williams – Neuroendocrine Cancer (VIPoma)

Olivia Williams – Neuroendocrine Cancer (VIPoma)

Awareness
Well known UK actress Olivia Williams has been diagnosed with a functioning pancreatic NET called a VIPoma. She played Bruce Willis' wife in the blockbuster Sixth Sense in 1999. She is also known for her roles in TV dramas such as ITV's The Halcyon and American science fiction thriller series Counterpart.  And she was on the set in California when her biopsy result came though confirming the pNET.  The doctors, who I believe were from Cedars Sinai even said “It’s not pancreatic cancer, it might be a neuroendocrine tumour". She finally got surgery in Kings College London.  Read the Vogue article here.    So glad she finally got it sorted after 4 years (great story inside).  However, she is now an ambassador for Pancreatic Cancer - so once again we…
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Weight – the NET Effect

Weight – the NET Effect

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_480" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Shrek and Fiona[/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 question with…
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Lanreotide vs Octreotide

Lanreotide vs Octreotide

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Technical NETs, Treatment
Somatostatin Analogues are the 'workhorse' treatments for those living with NETs, particularly where certain syndromes are involved.  So not just for classic NETs with Carcinoid Syndrome but also for treating the hormone overscretions caused by insulinoma, gastrinoma, glucagonoma and VIPoma (all types of pNETs) and others. They are most effective if the NETs express somatostatin receptors.  They also have an anti-tumour effect but more of a slowing down of growth rather than a killing or reduction of tumour size - but there are always outliers where such effects are displayed. Somatostatin is actually a naturally occurring hormone produced by the hypothalamus and some other tissues such as the pancreas and the gastrointestinal tract. However, it can only handle the normal release of hormones.  When NET syndromes occur, the naturally occurring somatostatin is unable to cope.…
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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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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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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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Surgery for NETs – Chop Chop

Surgery for NETs – Chop Chop

Technical NETs, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_2707" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Liver tumour debulking[/caption] At the end of 2014, I was feeling pretty good celebrating 4 years since my first 'big' surgery in 2010. It prompted me to write an article Surgery - the gift that keeps on giving. In that particlar article, I really just wanted to say I was grateful for the early surgical treatment and as I was just about to spend another Christmas with my family, I was reminiscing what a wonderful gift it was at the time. Other than some detail of the surgery, I didn't get too technical, I just wanted to generate a thankful and festive mood. However, a recent private message from a subscriber prompted me to study the current benefits of surgery for Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) in more detail just to ensure my understanding…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Horrible Hormones

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Horrible 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.  Hormones are involved in many conditions, not just an issue with NETs but the presence of over-secreting hormones (often called peptides throughout) is useful to aid a diagnosis  albeit it often (but not always) means the tumours have metastasized. It's also a frequent indication that the person may have 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…
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