10th November 2018 is NET Cancer Day! What are NETs and why should you care?
NET stands for Neuroendocrine Tumours and is an umbrella term for a few different types of tumours – some can be slow growing and others much more aggressive and malignant. NETs can grow all over the body (lungs, pancreatic, GI tract etc) and can occur in both men and women of all ages.
A few shocking facts:
- On average it takes 3-7 years (yes YEARS) to be diagnosed with NET(s).
- 60-70% patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
- In England over 4000 people are diagnosed with NETs every year.
“Okay, I know what cancer is, why are you telling me about NETs?”
I’m telling you about NETs to spread awareness. It is incredibly scary to be diagnosed with something you (and all your friends and family) have never even heard of before. Knowing about NETs and being educated about different types of cancers is important for helping to improve diagnosis numbers and speed and also improving support. The issue with NETs is that due to their rarity, late onset of symptoms (that often take 3-5 years to develop), and vague symptoms – it often takes a long time to be diagnosed.
Zebra Print ?
In medical school doctors are often taught “When you hear hoof beats think horses, not zebras”. This saying means that more often than not, the most simple/obvious answer is likely the correct one. The issue is that sometimes the answer really is a zebra, not a horse. NETs are an example of a zebra in the medical field. They often present non-specific symptoms so it can be difficult to connect the dots. Symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for other medical problems such as asthma and IBS. By spreading awareness we can help to further educate both patients and medical practitioners.
NET Patient Foundation Stall
Earlier this week myself and two other volunteers ran a NET cancer stall at the University of Manchester. Stationed in the Stopford building (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health) we were there purely to raise awareness of NETs. We spoke to staff and students including potential future NET doctors and cancer researchers.
The NET Patient Foundation supplied us with lots of resources to support the stall. It was a definite success, with the majority of people learning about NETs for the first time!
NETs differentiate from neuroendocrine cells – these cells receive inputs from neurotransmittors and then produce and release hormones. As with all tumours – NETs form due to uncontrolled abnormal cell division of these cells. Due to their original cell type, NETs often overproduce hormones which can cause a range of symptoms. One common symptom of having NETs is called Carcinoid Syndrome. Carcinoid Syndrome includes symptoms such as flushing, bronchospasms, diarrhoea and tachycardia. Carcinoid Syndrome can unfortunately lead to Carcinoid Crisis which is an overwhelming quantity of hormones being released into the body and can result in fatalities.
Earlier diagnosis and more awareness means earlier intervention and ultimately better outcomes for many patients. Make sure you spread the word!
Data on this page was all from the NET Patient Foundation. For more details and resources visit their website: www.netpatientfoundation.org