Treatment for pancreatic NETs
Here we discuss treatment for the rarest type of pancreatic tumours: neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). Some pancreatic NETs produce hormones (functioning), while most don’t (non-functioning). About 90% of pancreatic NETs are non-functioning. This section focuses on the treatment of non-functioning pancreatic NETs.
Learn more about:
- An overview
- Where should you have treatment
- Active surveillance
- Making treatment decisions
- Surgery for early pancreatic NETs
- What to expect after surgery
- Treatment options for advanced pancreatic NETs
Treatment of pancreatic NETs is complex. Your treatment team will discuss the best treatment for you based on the stage and grade of the tumour; whether the tumour is functioning or non-functioning; whether the tumour is associated with an inherited condition; your general health; and your preferences.
Functioning tumours are very rare and are usually managed by an endocrinologist and surgeon. Contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 or NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia for information about treating functioning pancreatic NETs.
Where should you have treatment?
To ensure the best outcome it is recommended that you are treated by a multidisciplinary team in a specialist centre. Specialist treatment centres have multidisciplinary teams of health professionals experienced in treating pancreatic cancer. These centres see a lot of people with pancreatic cancer and are also associated with better outcomes.
Visiting one of these centres gives you access to a wide range of treatment options, but it may mean you need to travel away from home for treatment. To find a specialist treatment centre for pancreatic nets, talk to your GP.
If you live in a rural or regional area and have to travel a long way for appointments or treatment, ask your doctor what support is available to coordinate your trip. You may also be able to get financial assistance towards the cost of accommodation or travel. To check whether you are eligible or to apply, speak to your GP or the hospital social worker, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
If you are diagnosed with a small, low-grade pancreatic NET that is not causing any symptoms or releasing hormones, your doctor might recommend active surveillance. This involves regular imaging and blood tests. If these tests suggest that the tumour has grown, you will be offered treatment (usually surgery).
Active surveillance might help to avoid the side effects of surgery. It can also be a reasonable option if you are not well enough for surgery and the tumours are small.
You might feel anxious about not treating a cancer in your body right away. However, active surveillance will only be recommended if the doctor thinks it is the best thing to do. If you are worried, discuss your concerns with your specialist, GP or a counsellor.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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