If you have symptoms that may signal a neuroendocrine tumor, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health, lifestyle and your family medical history.
If a tumor, including a NET, is suspected, your doctor will order tests based on the location of the suspected tumor. Read about a specific disease for more information about cancer diagnostic tests in that part of the body. In general, the following tests are used to diagnose NETs, monitor their progress or assess the patient’s symptoms.
Imaging exams: The exact imaging exam a patient undergoes will depend on the possible location of the suspected tumor. Common imaging exams include CT, MRI, X-ray and ultrasound.
If doctors suspect a gastrointestinal NET, they may order an endoscopy. During this procedure, a thin plastic tube with a camera at the end is inserted into the rectum or into the mouth to look for signs of cancer. Learn more about imaging exams.
Biopsy: A biopsy involves retrieving suspected cancer cells and studying them under a microscope. There are many ways these cells can be retrieved. Learn more about biopsies.
Blood and urine tests: NETs cannot be diagnosed through a blood test or urine test. These tests can be used to monitor hormone levels, which can help doctors understand the patient’s symptoms.
NET grading and staging
A cancer’s stage describes the size of the tumor and whether/how far it has spread from its original site.
Grade describes how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope. The more abnormal the cells, the higher the grade. Higher grade cancers are generally more aggressive than lower grade cancers.
A NET’s grade and stage play a big role in the treatment plan for the disease. There are several different systems for grading and staging NETs based on their location. Doctors can discuss a cancer’s grade and stage with each patient.