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Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare tumours that begin in specialised cells of the neuroendocrine system.
Based on studies in China, Taiwan and Singapore, NETs develop most commonly in the pancreas, rectum and stomach.
They may be cancerous or non-cancerous.
Some neuroendocrine tumours grow very slowly, while others are more aggressive and are able to spread to other parts of the body.
When neuroendocrine tumours produce excess hormones they are known as functional NETs. When they do not release hormones (or do not release enough to cause noticeable symptoms), they are known as non-functional NETs.
There are different types of NETs, depending on the site of origin or hormone produced. The most common ones are:
In rare cases, neuroendocrine tumours may develop in other parts of the body. These types include:
Carcinoid syndrome is the collection of symptoms that some people with NETs may have. Symptoms include sweating, breathlessness, facial flushing and diarrhoea. It is more common when the tumour has spread to the liver and releases hormones such as serotonin into the bloodstream.
Symptoms may vary depending on the site of the tumour and the excess hormone produced. In the case of carcinoid tumours, symptoms may appear after years.
In general, symptoms of NETs include:
There is no specific cause or risk factor associated with NETs. However, there are a number of inherited syndromes associated with NETs:
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