Neuroendocrine Tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors (NET) sometimes called Carcinoid tumors are rare tumors that can be found anywhere in the GI Tract from the Esophagus to the Anus. The most common sites of this tumor are the small bowel and appendix but it may also be found in the stomach, colon, rectum or pancreas and in very rare cases, the lung.

Some of these tumors secrete a hormone that can lead to symptoms of flushing, diarrhea and shortness of breath. This “carcinoid” syndrome is rare and often presents when the tumor is quite advanced. In many cases, these tumors are non-functional not giving any symptoms. There are tumor markers in the blood and urine that can be tested for NETs. The diagnosis, work-up and management of these tumors should be performed in a specialized center such as The Ottawa Hospital.

Not all NETs are the same and therefore a detailed consultation with your physician/surgeon is very important once the diagnosis has been made.

Dr. Carolyn Nessim actively treats Neuroendocrine tumors through the Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Center.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need any special tests?

Often these tumors are identified on CT Scan and can be anywhere in the Gastro-intestinal tract. The first tests required will be a blood test and 24 hour urine test for a special tumor marker that can indicate whether or not you have a functional or non-functinal NET. You will also require a CT Scan of the chest to rule out spread of the tumor. In some circumstances, a special radiological study in Nuclear Medicine called and Octreoscan may be necessary to evaluate the tumor.

Do I need a biopsy of the tumor?

Depending on the location of the tumor, biopsy under image guidance may or may not be requested.  If the tumor is accessible for biopsy than this will be requested.  Some tumor locations are not amenable to biopsy and surgical removal may be necessary based on imaging findings and tumor markers.

What kind of surgery will I need?

The type of surgery depends on the location of the tumor. This will be discussed in detail with your surgeon.

Are there are any medications I need to take or chemotherapy for this tumor?

In early stage disease, surgery alone is often what is recommended. In more advanced disease, medications as well as other radiation or chemotherapy treatments may be recommended. Your care will be managed by a multidisciplinary team of surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists that are specialized in the care of patients with Neuroendocrine tumors.