Can Neuroendocrine Cancer Be Hereditary & Can It Spread To The Brain?

Neuroendocrine cancer/tumor arises in the neuroendocrine cells of the body, which have features of both- the endocrine as well as nerve cells. It may be benign or malignant.(4)

Can Neuroendocrine Cancer Be Hereditary?

Most of the neuroendocrine cancers/tumors are not linked to a genetic syndrome. However, some of them are linked with one of the following conditions-

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1-

this causes tumors in the pancreas and other organs(1)

Neurofibromatosis Type 1 –

This causes tumors in adrenal glands(1)

Von- Hippel- Lindau Syndrome-

This creates tumors and sacs filled with fluid in many areas of the body(1)

Can Neuroendocrine Cancer/Tumour Spread To The Brain?

When it comes to neuroendocrine cancer/tumor, the chances of spreading or metastases to the brain are very rare. Also, diagnosing a metastatic brain neuroendocrine tumor/cancer is quite difficult, since it is so rare and very difficult to differentiate from other brain cancers/tumors and, if a neuroendocrine tumor of the brain is diagnosed, then the primary site of metastases needs to be investigated, which is liver in most cases.(2)

Where Else Can A Neuroendocrine Cancer/Tumour Metastasize?

Neuroendocrine tumors most often metastasize to the liver. Those who are diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors are usually diagnosed with neuroendocrine liver metastases (NLM). NLM is responsible for causing a high rate of morbidity and mortality in those affected. Those having NLM have an even worse prognosis than those without it. Surgical intervention is always the choice of treatment for people with NLM. However, due to extensive metastases in difficult locations, the candidates eligible for surgical intervention are limited to a mere 10 %. Those that do not have surgical intervention as an option, these days several other techniques as well as new medical therapies provide a promising outcome(3)

Types Of Neuroendocrine Tumours/Cancer

There are many types of neuroendocrine cancers/tumors. They are named according to the type of cell that is involved or what type of hormones they make. These different types are-

Carcinoids-

  • Carcinoid tumors can occur in many places in the body. However, they are most commonly seen in the digestive tract. This may include the appendix, small intestine, colon, stomach, rectum, etc.
  • They can also be seen in lungs or thymus. Occurrence in the pancreas, kidneys, etc. is rare.
  • Carcinoids release different types of hormones which lead to different symptoms. These clusters of symptoms are known as carcinoid syndrome.(1)

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer/Tumour-

These occur in the pancreas. There are again a few subtypes of this tumor, like-

Insulinomas-

These are the commonest of them all. These cancer cells produce insulin and they are often not malignant.(1)

Glucagonomas-

These tumors make glucagon which increases the blood sugar levels. About fifty percent of them are malignant and they usually spread to other parts of the body(1)

Gastrinomas-

These tumors make gastrin which helps in digesting food. These tumors are seen when you are affected with a rare disorder called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Most of them are cancerous and usually spread easily in the body.(1)

Somatostatinomas-

These tumors make an excess of somatostatin, which in turn affects the production of other hormones in your body(1)

VIPomas-

These make a kind of hormone that sets off the release of other hormones called the VIP or vasoactive intestinal peptides(1)

Pheochromocytoma-

  • This occurs in the adrenal glands.
  • This tumor makes adrenaline and noradrenaline which may cause an increase in blood pressure.
  • These are usually not cancerous(1)

Medullary Carcinoma-

This affects the thyroid gland and the calcium levels in the body.(1)

Conclusion

Neuroendocrine cancer/tumor of most types are not linked to the genetic syndrome. However, having some conditions can increase your chances of getting it. If neuroendocrine cancer metastasizes, it can spread to other body parts, including the brain. However, the chances are extremely rare.

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