Many people with NETs first come to SCCA after being diagnosed by a physician somewhere else. Often, this happens when NETs are found during an X-ray or treatment done for some other reason.
At SCCA, we also see people whose physicians suspect a NET but are not sure. NETs can be difficult to diagnose. They may cause no symptoms at all. When they do cause symptoms, they can mimic many other conditions.
Diagnosing NETs almost always involves a biopsy. This shows whether you have cancer and which type. It also allows us to compare your cancer cells to normal cells. This reveals your tumor differentiation and grade. If the cancer cells appear more normal, the tumor is called well differentiated. If the cancer cells appear less normal, the tumor is called poorly differentiated.
Grade refers to how quickly the cancer cells grow. Lower-grade cancers are usually slower growing. Higher-grade cancers tend to grow faster. This helps guide your treatment plan.
SCCA pathologists have special expertise with NET biopsies. They know how to analyze these biopsies and get the level of detail your medical oncologist will need. If you had a biopsy elsewhere, at SCCA we check the results. Our pathologists review the pathology slides and report.
Our radiologists and nuclear medicine specialists review your scans. We do this to confirm your diagnosis and to plan treatment that precisely matches your needs. This includes figuring out where your NET started, such as in your intestine, pancreas or lung.
Another important detail is whether your NET makes and releases hormones. NETs that do this can cause symptoms. These are called functional NETs. You may have tests, like blood and urine tests, to check your hormone levels.
At SCCA, we provide all the types of tests and imaging you may need.