How is a neuroendocrine tumour diagnosed?
Screening is the use of tests to detect a disease in people who have no symptoms. No screening test is available for neuroendocrine cancer.
How is neuroendocrine cancer diagnosed?
Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) can be difficult to detect and diagnose because they are often very small. They can occur in many different parts of the body, and they cause a wide variety of symptoms (or no symptoms at all).
A number of tests may be performed to investigate symptoms of neuroendocrine cancer and confirm a diagnosis. Some of these tests might also be used to find out the stage of the cancer. The stage refers to how far the cancer has progressed – that is, its size and whether it has spread from where it started in the body.
Some of the more common tests include:
- a physical examination and taking of a medical history (a record of your symptoms and any medical events you have had in the past)
- blood tests to look for hormone excretion
- a urine test to measure the amounts of substances such as hormones
- imaging tests, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, to check for tumours and find out where they are in the body. Another type of scan is MIBG, in which a small amount of a radioactive substance (metaiodobenzylguanidine) is injected into a vein; NETs take up the radioactive material and can then be detected
- examination of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract or the lungs using an endoscope (a camera on the end of a thin tube)
- sampling of tissue (biopsy) from the suspect tumour for examination under a microscope
- a bone scan to see if the cancer has spread to the bones.
1. International Neuroendocrine Cancer Alliance. What are neuroendocrine tumors?
2. Unicorn Foundation (2015). Neuroendocrine tumours: a guide for patients and carers.
3. Unicorn Foundation (2015). Neuroendocrine tumours: a guide for healthcare professionals.
4. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2018). Neuroendocrine tumors.
5. Canadian Cancer Society (2019). Neuroendocrine tumours.
6. National Cancer Institute (2018). Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors treatment – (PDQ®) – patient version.