In a tweet today, Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan revealed that he has been diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumor.

While we generally tend to relate the term 'neuro' with the brain, in this particular instance, it's not. There are quite a few types of this disease, and it can show up in many places in your body.

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Before I tell you more about Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs), you need to know about our endocrine system.

Our body’s endocrine system is made up of cells that produce hormones. Hormones are chemical substances that are carried through the bloodstream and have a specific effect on the activity of other organs or cells in the body.

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What are Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs)?

Our body’s neuroendocrine system is made up of cells that are a combination of hormone-producing endocrine cells and nerve cells. These cells are found throughout the body in organs such as the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and intestines. They are known to perform specific functions, such as regulating air and blood flow through the lungs and controlling how quickly food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.

A Neuroendocrine Tumor begins in these cells and then spreads in other parts of the body.

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Causes and symptoms of NETs

The plain truth is, experts don't know exactly what causes neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). But having a family history of such diseases can put you at a greater risk.

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NETs often don’t show symptoms early in the disease process. When symptoms are present, they may be similar to those caused by more common medical conditions. Some of them could be,

  • Thickening or lump in any part of the body
  • Diarrhea, including at nighttime
  • Shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat/palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Persistent fever or night sweats
  • Gastric ulcer disease
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Wheezing, coughing
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin)
  • High blood glucose levels (frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger)
  • Low blood glucose levels (shakiness, dizziness, sweating, fainting)

The symptoms also vary depending on the location of the tumor in an individual's body.

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Diagnosis and Treatment

NETs are difficult to diagnose because of the nonspecific and vague symptoms. If detected early in their development, they can often be cured with surgery.

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If diagnosed at a later stage, they can rarely be cured, although the symptoms can often be managed successfully for a number of years. Treatment includes surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.

Chances of survival

It is a rare medical condition and the survival rate depends on factors such as the affected body organs and whether the tumor is cancerous or not.

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With state-of-the-art technology in place, NET can be cured and we hope that actor Irrfan Khan returns healthy after his treatment.