Neuroendocrine Tumors

About Neuroendocrine Tumours

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare tumours that develop in cells of the neuroendocrine system. There are a number of different types. The type you have depends on the particular cells that the tumour starts in.

A tumour begins when the DNA of healthy cells is damaged, causing the cells to change and grow out of control, forming a mass. A tumour can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumour can grow and spread to other parts of the body if it is not found early and treated. This is sometimes called a malignant tumour. A benign tumour means the tumour can grow but will not spread. A benign tumour usually can be removed without it causing much harm. All NETs are considered cancerous tumours.

A neuroendocrine tumour (NET) begins in the specialized cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system. These cells have traits of both hormone-producing endocrine cells and nerve cells. They are found throughout the body’s organs and help control many of the body’s functions. Hormones are chemical substances that are carried through the bloodstream to have a specific effect on the activity of other organs or cells in the body. Most NETs take years to develop and grow slowly. However, some NETs can be fast-growing. See the Stages and Grades section to learn more.

NETs can develop in any part of the body. NETs develop most commonly in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or in the lungs (learn more about NETs of the lung). GI tract NETs and lung NETs used to be called carcinoid tumours. Other sites of origin of NETs are the pancreas, pituitary gland, the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, thymus and sympathetic ganglia.

Adrenal tumours may arise from various types of endocrine cells in the adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla. The ones that arise in the medulla are called phaeochromocytoma, which may also arise from sympathetic nerve ganglia lying along large blood vessels like the aorta and vena cava, when they are called paragangliomas. Learn more about NETs that develop in other parts of the body.

Recently diagnosed?

After your diagnosis has been made it would be ideal for your case to be reviewed by a NET multidisciplinary team (MDT).

A multidisciplinary team is a team of different specialists with specific expertise in various aspects of management of patients with NETs. The team should, ideally, consist of surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians, histopathologists, chemical pathologists, endocrinologists, clinical nurse specialists and allied health professionals.
Because neuroendocrine tumours are uncommon, your MDT may not be based at your nearest hospital, which can mean that it may take a little longer than you’d like to get results or see your treatment plan. Try to bear in mind that the MDT approach is designed to put you in the best possible position, so do let your doctors know if you have any concerns.

Established Neuroendocrine Tumour MDT’s in South Africa 

The reason for the use of multidisciplinary team for treating NETs patients There are there many factors to consider in managing patients afflicted by these tumours, so it is highly desirable that the treatment of all patients with neuroendocrine tumours is discussed by teams comprising specialists from several different medical specialities – our team in Cape Town, which meets once a month, includes pathologists, diagnostic radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, a surgical oncologist / hepato-pancreato-biliary surgeon, medical / radiation oncologists, endocrinologists and interventional radiologists. Some of these specialists are in full-time private practice, some in state practice and some work across both sectors. There are also Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) in place at Tygerberg Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital.

Cape Town:
Vincent Pallotti Hospital – General enquiries ( or Dr M.Morkel 
Groote Schuur Hospital
Tygerberg Hospital


Prof. Jean Botha Head of Liver Transplant Unit at Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Jhb.
Prof. Mike Sathekge
Lizette Louw is a Nuclear Medicine Physician in JHB;


Dr. Masha Maharaj from Umhlanga Advanced Imaging and treatment.
Adam McCleave of Hopelands Cancer Centre. His email is:


Getting referred to a NET MDT:

You may be referred to one automatically, but if that doesn’t happen you can ask your doctor for a referral to be made.