Neuroendocrine tumors are abnormal growths that begin in specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells. Neuroendocrine cells have traits similar to nerve cells and to hormone-producing cells.
Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and can occur anywhere in the body. Most neuroendocrine tumors occur in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum and pancreas.
Neuroendocrine tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).
Examples of neuroendocrine tumors include:
- Carcinoid tumors of the lung, intestinal tract or thymus
- Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, also known as islet cell cancer
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma
- Merkel cell carcinoma, also known as neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin
- Pheochromocytoma of the adrenal gland
- Adrenal cancer
- Small cell carcinoma, most commonly of the lung
- Large cell carcinoid tumor, most commonly of the lung
Diagnosis and treatment of neuroendocrine tumors depends on the type of tumor, its location, whether it produces excess hormones, how aggressive it is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.