Cancer screening exams can help find neuroendocrine cancer at its earliest stage when the chances for successful treatment, optimal outcomes and fewer side effects are greatest. These tests are usually done when a patient is healthy and has no specific symptoms.

Not only are expert cancer researchers at the OSUCCC – James continually working to detect and diagnose neuroendocrine cancer early, but they are also developing additional tests to detect and diagnose cancer even earlier, leading to improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects.

Unlike with some cancers, there are currently no recommended screening exams for neuroendocrine cancer.

Neuroendocrine Cancer Risk Factors

Carcinoid Tumor

A patient’s health history can affect the risk of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Risk factors for GI carcinoid tumors include the following:

  • Having a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome or neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) syndrome
  • Having certain conditions that affect the stomach's ability to make stomach acid, such as atrophic gastritis, pernicious anemia or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor

Having certain syndromes can increase the risk of pancreatic NETs. For instance, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome is a risk factor for pancreatic NETs.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

The presence of risk factors does not necessarily mean you have neuroendocrine cancer. But if you have risk factors, you should discuss them with your doctor.

Diagnosing Neuroendocrine Cancer

Your doctor or dentist will perform a careful physical examination and record your medical history. After the examination, the doctor may order one or more tests to detect signs of neuroendocrine cancer.

Blood Tests

A blood chemistry analysis is performed to measure amounts of substances in the blood. For neuroendocrine cancer, doctors check the blood for abnormally high levels of the hormones associated with the type of neuroendocrine tumor.

Urine Tests

This urine test requires a patient to collect urine for 24 hours to measure amounts of substances such as hormones. A large amount of a particular hormone can indicate a type of neuroendocrine cancer.

Tumor Marker Tests

A blood or urine sample is analyzed for amounts of certain substances in the body known as tumor markers. Certain markers indicate types of neuroendocrine cancer.

Imaging Exams

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

A type of X-ray test that produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

MRI uses a high-powered magnet and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body. Your doctor may use MRI to help stage neuroendocrine cancer once it is diagnosed.

Positron Emission Tomography

A PET scan uses a small amount of a radioactive agent mixed with glucose to identify areas of cancerous activity in the body. A special imaging camera is able to display cancerous cells brighter on PET images.

Nuclear Medicine Scan

Several types of nuclear medicine scans are used in detecting small neuroendocrine tumors. A small amount of a radioactive dye, which is usually injected into the patient’s vein, attaches to cancerous tumors and shows brightly on images taken by a special camera.

Single Photon Emission Tomography Scan

A SPECT scan produces a 3-D image with a special camera linked to a computer that rotates around the patient’s neck. The images highlight areas where a small amount of an injected radioactive substance that collects where cancer cells grow.


Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of X-rays to evaluate the organs and tissues inside the body. Endoscopic ultrasound places the ultrasound probe at the end of a long, thin scope to capture images from inside the body.


Angiography is a type of X-ray procedure that evaluates a patient’s arteries and blood vessels. The patient receives an injection of a small amount of contrast, or dye, which highlights the blood.


The doctor inserts a long, thin tube called an endoscope through the patient’s mouth or rectum. The tube is lighted and has a lens to assist the doctor in seeing inside the body. With a capsule endoscopy, the patient swallows a tiny camera that takes pictures as the capsule moves through the GI tract.


The doctor removes a sample of cells or tissue so they can be analyzed under a microscope by a specially trained pathologist. The doctor may obtain the sample using a fine needle during an endoscopy or colonoscopy or during surgery.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Staging Neuroendocrine Cancer

If you receive a neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis, staging is a way to determine the degree and type of your cancer and helps your doctors plan the best treatment. The staging classification remains the same throughout treatment.

For many cancers, it is important to know the stage of the cancer to plan treatment. The treatment of some neuroendocrine tumors is not based on the stage of the cancer. Treatment depends mainly on whether the tumor can be removed by surgery and if the tumor has spread.

Treatment is based on whether the tumor:

  • Can be completely removed by surgery
  • Has spread to other parts of the body
  • Has come back after treatment — in the stomach or intestines or in other parts of the body
  • Has not gotten better with treatment

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you have received a neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a neuroendocrine cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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