What are neuroendocrine tumours?

Neuroendocrine cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the neuroendocrine system grow in an uncontrolled way. Neuroendocrine cancer is also referred to as neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). 

The endocrine system is made up of glands, which produce hormones. Hormones control many of the body’s functions. The neuroendocrine system controls how the nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) works with the endocrine system.  

The neuroendocrine system is made up of neuroendocrine cells. These cells are found throughout the body – mainly in the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs, the thymus gland, the gallbladder and the pancreas. Other glands – the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland, the parathyroid glands and the adrenal glands (at the top of the kidneys) – also contain large numbers of neuroendocrine cells. 

Neuroendocrine cells are like both nerve cells and endocrine cells. They receive signals from the nervous system (like nerve cells) and respond by making hormones (like endocrine cells). Hormones made by neuroendocrine cells include serotonin, insulin, adrenaline and growth hormone. 

The neuroendocrine system controls important functions in the body such as air and blood flow to the lungs, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, metabolism, blood sugar, and muscle and bone growth.