Classification of NETs
NETs are still mainly classified according to the area in which they are found.
Foregut tumours: found in the lungs, stomach, pancreas, gall bladder and duodenum
Midgut tumours: found in the jejunum, ileum, appendix and right colon
Hindgut tumours: found in the left colon and rectum
The group of tumours that arise in the pancreas can be classified into two different groups; functioning and non-functioning. The functioning group will produce a number of clinical syndromes that are related to where they originate, for example, an insulinoma will over-secrete insulin and gastrinomas are gastrin-secreting tumours. The non-functioning group which accounts for around 30-40% of pancreatic tumours, may secrete certain hormones and peptides like other NETs, but the release of these chemicals does not cause an identifiable ‘syndrome’ or collection of symptoms. This can make diagnosis difficult and explains why so many cases are picked up incidentally.
Although we do not have a figure for Ireland, in the UK it is believed that approx 3-5 people per 100,000 are diagnosed with new cases of NETs each year. However it is also believed that there are likely to be many more people around the country with NETs who remain undiagnosed and unaware of their condition because the disease is so slow growing and often produces none or very minor symptoms. As with all cancers, the sooner the disease is found and correctly diagnosed, then the better is the outcome and prognosis. It is often said that “if you are going to get cancer then this is the best one to get”. Many NET patients live long and healthy lives benefitting from the excellent medical knowledge of combinative surgery, diagnostics and prescribed drug regimens.