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Neuroendocrine Cancer

Dr. Anthony and Geri McDowell

Neuroendocrine cancer, also referred to as neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), is a rare form of cancer affecting specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells. These cells can produce hormones in response to signals from the nervous system. NETs can start anywhere in the body, but usually develop in the appendix, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, pancreas or rectum. They can be benign or malignant, and usually grow slowly, although some develop quickly.

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Neuroendocrine Cancer at UK Markey Cancer Center

Markey's dedicated neuroendocrine cancer team provides expert consultation and ongoing care for patients with cancers of the neuroendocrine system. Here, we have one of the most experienced teams in the nation dedicated to treating neuroendocrine tumors in adults and children as well as the region’s only multidisciplinary clinic for neuroendocrine tumors.

Each patient is cared for by a team of specialists who meet regularly to discuss individual patient cases and treatment plans. This multidisciplinary team will work with you and your doctor to coordinate a care plan designed to offer the best outcomes.

Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.

  • Symptoms

    There are no common symptoms for NETs and, in their early stages, they are usually detected only when an X-ray or surgery is performed for another condition. However, you may experience one of the following symptoms related generally to cancer and developing tumors:

    General symptoms

    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss

    Tumor signs

    • Changes in bowel movements or urination
    • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
    • A lump in any part of the body
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pain in a certain area
    • Persistent cough
    • Unusual bleeding

    Hormonal changes

    • Anxiety
    • Diarrhea
    • Flushing of the face without sweating
    • Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, accompanied by hunger, thirst and frequent urination
    • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, accompanied by dizziness, fainting, tiredness, shakiness or sweating
    • Nutritional deficits, particularly niacin and protein
    • Skin rashes
    • Ulcers
  • Survival Rates

    According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for neuroendocrine cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body is 93 percent. When it has spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes, the survival rate drops to 77 percent. When the cancer has spread throughout the body, the survival rate is 25 percent.

  • Prevention

    You can lower your risk of cancer by taking steps to build a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways you can lower your risk for this disease, as well as improve your overall basic health:

    • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
    • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
    • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
    • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.
  • Risk Factors

    There is no clear cause for neuroendocrine cancer, which means it is difficult to prevent. However, the following may raise someone’s risk for developing NET:

    • Age. While anyone can develop an NET, it’s more common in adults.
    • Gender. For unknown reasons, NETs are slightly more common in women than men.
    • Genetics. People with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) are at risk for developing NETs in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and pancreas. Other hereditary factors connected to neuroendocrine cancer include neurofibromatosis type 1, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2), tuberous sclerosis complex and Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome.
    • Race. NETs are more common in white people than Black people.
    • Other medical conditions. People with conditions that cause stomach damage and reduce acid production are at higher risk of developing an NET in their stomach.
  • Your First Visit/What to Expect

    • For your first visit, you will be directed to the Multidisciplinary Clinic on the first floor of the Whitney-Hendrickson Building
    • You can register at the front desk or registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
    • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
    • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
    • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.  
  • Clinical Trials

    Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective.

    At UK Markey Cancer Center, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat cancer – one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

    Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating neuroendocrine tumors below.

  • Locations


    Multidisciplinary Clinic

    Whitney Hendrickson Building

    UK Markey Cancer Center

    Whitney-Hendrickson Building
    800 Rose St.
    First Floor
    Lexington, KY 40536

    A parking lot is located near the Whitney-Hendrickson Building, accessible via Hospital Drive. Get directions to Whitney-Hendrickson.

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Follow-Up Care