The sooner any cancer can be correctly diagnosed, the better chances of a complete cure for the person concerned. However, some cancers are in the ‘difficult to diagnose’ category. Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) is in this category due to the vague symptoms which may be mistaken for other diseases and routine illnesses. This is one of the reasons there have been many lengthy diagnostic delays. In many cases, it can be very quiet leading to diagnosis at very advanced stages.
In some cases it can be a little bit noisy. For example, the most common misdiagnosis appears to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), asthma, or menopause. Patients complain of abdominal pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, diarrhea, flushing, palpitations and a whole host of other minor issues. There are even extreme cases where patients have been told they may have a mental illness following constant visits to their local doctors. These cases can lead to months or even years of delay from the onset of symptoms, with around half of patients diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease and metastases at initial presentation.
I’m not totally up to speed on what happens overseas, but in the UK, you normally only have 10 minutes (5 in some scenarios) to see a doctor (although my own experience is that many ignore that rule and if they sense a big issue). No matter how hard we push, this can sometimes be insufficient to diagnose or even suspect NET cancer (or indeed many other cancers). A NET Cancer diagnosis is more likely to be as a result of a number of visits where a picture can emerge and even then, a referral to a ‘symptom’ specialist may not necessary lead to an immediate discovery of a NET cancer.
There is no harm in targeting GP/PCP but they are more likely to be following instincts by referring due to symptoms rather than in the game of diagnosing obscure cancers which look like other things. I’m a big believer in primary care being the trigger for ‘something‘ which will hopefully be figured out at secondary care where you are more likely to get access to scans etc. In fact there is data to suggest that ‘symptom specialist’ frequently refer patients back to primary care, indicating the education at secondary care level may be a better focus for NET cancer awareness.
NET Cancer is dangerous despite it’s normally indolent course. It has a propensity to metastasize meaning that the chance of a curative scenario is vastly decreased. There is new data confirming the incidence of NET Cancer is on the increase and it’s no longer rare – I’m certain this is due to increased awareness, more efficient diagnostic tools and better reporting methods, e.g. Lung and Pancreatic NETs now being properly reported as NETs rather than Lung and Pancreatic Cancer respectively, particularly at Grade 3.
However, it’s probably true to say the term ‘silent cancer’ or ‘quiet cancer’ is apt even in those who are fortunate to be diagnosed at an early stage. I mean, how do you detect something that is silent? Anyone who is diagnosed with NET Cancer on the first visit to any medical professional is extremely lucky! I suspect this is the same for many ‘difficult to diagnose’ cancers.
Neuroendocrine Cancer – shh! can you hear it?
By the way, Neuroendocrine Cancer hates awareness so share share share!
Thanks for reading
Hey Guys, I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news.