Because neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are so rare, they can be difficult to detect and diagnose. In fact, most NETs are found unexpectedly when people have x-rays or a medical procedure done for reasons completely unrelated to the tumor. 

If a neuroendocrine tumor is suspected, the first step will be to undergo a thorough physical examination that includes a close look at your medical and family history. The next step will be to undergo testing so an accurate diagnosis can be made. It’s important to understand that the tests used will depend on a variety of factors such as the type of tumor, its location, whether it produces excess hormones, how aggressive it is, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

The cancer experts at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers use a variety of tools designed for diagnosing neuroendocrine tumors, evaluating the disease, and creating a treatment plan specifically geared toward your individual needs. 

The diagnostic tests we may use to diagnose NETs include:

  • Biopsy
  • Blood and/or urine tests
  • Molecular testing of the tumor
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • PET or PET-CT scan (Gallium 68 )
  • Nuclear imaging (OctreoScan™)

After diagnostic tests are done, we will review all of the results with you. If the diagnosis is a NET, these results can help us describe the tumor, through a process known as staging. 

Most neuroendocrine tumors are classified as low-grade tumors because of how slowly they grow, although this is not always the case. The tumor grade and growth rate are important contributing factors to making a prognosis and determining a treatment plan. However, when diagnosed and treated appropriately most patients with neuroendocrine tumors can enjoy a high quality of life for many years.