Understanding Neuroendocrine Tumors: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are relatively rare but can have serious consequences for those who develop them. This article will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for NETs.

What are Neuroendocrine Tumors?

Neuroendocrine tumors are a type of cancer that develops in the neuroendocrine cells. They can occur in different body organs, including the lungs, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract.

NETs can produce and secrete hormones which can cause diverse symptoms depending on the type of hormone and the location of the tumor.

Symptoms of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Symptoms of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) may include:

Abdominal Symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other changes in bowel habits
  • Feeling of fullness or bloating
  • Loss of appetite

Skin Symptoms:

  • Flushing or redness of the skin
  • Rash or itching
  • Sensation of warmth or tingling in the skin
  • Visible blood vessels in the skin

Respiratory Symptoms:

  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough or hoarseness

Systemic Symptoms:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations

Neurological Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures

It is important to note that some of these symptoms may be similar to other conditions. It can make the diagnosis of NETs challenging. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any persistent or concerning symptoms.

Causes of Neuroendocrine Tumors

The causes of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are not entirely understood. However, certain risk factors may contribute to the development of NETs. Here are some of the known risk factors and potential causes of NETs:

Genetic Factors: Inherited genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing NETs, including mutations in the MEN1, RET, and VHL genes.

Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain chemicals or substances, such as asbestos or radon, may increase the risk of developing NETs.

Chronic inflammation: Chronic inflammation, such as that caused by inflammatory bowel disease, may increase the risk of developing NETs.

Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions, such as neurofibromatosis and multiple endocrine neoplasia, increase the risk of developing NETs.

Age: People over the age of 60 are at increased risk of developing NETs.

Gender: Some types of NETs, such as those that occur in the lungs, are more common in men than in women.

It is important to note that in most cases, the exact cause of NETs is unknown. However, by understanding the known risk factors and potential causes, individuals may be able to take steps to reduce their risk of developing these tumors.

Treatment Options for Neuroendocrine Tumors

Treatment options for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) depend on several factors, including the size and location of the tumor, its growth rate, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Here are some of the treatment options for NETs:


Surgery is the primary treatment option for NETs that have not spread beyond their original location. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and any surrounding tissue that may be affected. In some cases, surgery may be followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy to help prevent the tumor from returning.

Laparoscopic Treatment

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat some types of NETs. It has become an increasingly popular treatment option for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) in recent years. It involves making small incisions in the abdomen. The doctor uses a laparoscope (a thin tube with a camera on the end) to view and remove the tumor. 

Laparoscopic surgery may result in less pain and scarring than traditional surgery. It may allow for a faster recovery time. Laparoscopic surgery carries a lower risk of complications, such as infection and bleeding, compared to traditional surgery. Laparoscopic surgery allows for greater precision in the removal of the tumor. It can lead to better outcomes and a lower risk of recurrence.

Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT)

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) is a targeted radiation therapy that has shown great promise in the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). This therapy involves the use of a small molecule called a peptide that targets the receptors on the surface of NET cells, combined with a radioactive material that destroys those cells. PRRT can be administered in a single dose or multiple doses over several months, depending on the specific type and location of the tumor.

Hormonal Therapy

Hormonal therapy is another treatment option for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). This therapy involves the use of medications that target the hormones produced by the tumor cells, either to block their production or to prevent their action. Hormonal therapy can help to slow the growth of the tumor, reduce symptoms, and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. There are several types of radiation therapy, including external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy).


Chemotherapy is the use of medications to kill and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It may treat NETs that have spread beyond their original location. 

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific molecules or proteins involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

It is important to discuss all treatment options with your doctor to determine the best course of action for your specific case. NETs are a complex condition. Thus, treatment may involve a combination of approaches to effectively manage the tumor and prevent its spread.

Why choose Dr. Asit Arora?

Dr. Asit Arora is an accomplished surgical gastroenterologist and gastrointestinal & HPB oncosurgeon. He has over 15 years of experience in surgical oncology. He’s well-known for his compassionate patient care and has devoted his career to advancing cancer care. If you have been diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors, Dr. Arora’s expertise and commitment to excellence make him an ideal choice for your treatment.