Risk Factors for Endocrine Tumors

While the cause of most endocrine tumors is unknown, certain inherited genetic conditions can increase a person’s risk of developing tumors in the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, or pituitary glands. For example, multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) Types 1 and 2 are hereditary syndromes associated with endocrine and neuroendocrine tumors.

Hoag’s Hereditary Cancer Program offers risk assessment counseling and genetic testing to individuals with a personal or family history of cancer. If you have a family history of thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas, neuroendocrine, or pituitary cancer, speak with your physician about whether genetic testing may be appropriate for you.

Diagnosing Endocrine Tumors

Accurate diagnosis and staging of endocrine tumors is critical in developing an effective treatment plan and achieving the best outcomes. Endocrine tumors are complex and can be challenging to diagnose. For these reasons, it is important to seek treatment from a team with high levels of experience and expertise.

Hoag’s Endocrine Tumors Program team is skilled in the accurate diagnosis of endocrine tumors. Recent advances in nuclear imaging technology has improved physicians’ ability to accurately detect and evaluate endocrine tumors. Hoag is a leader in these progressive techniques and advanced imaging technology, giving patients every advantage.

Beginning with a thorough evaluation that includes a comprehensive physical exam, personal medical history review and state-of-the-art diagnostic workup, Hoag’s multidisciplinary team of endocrine tumor experts carefully evaluate and pinpoint the nature of the cancer, so the most appropriate personalized treatment options can be employed.

The following tests may be used to determine if you have an endocrine tumor and may also be used to see how your cancer is responding to treatment:

  • Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to generate pictures of internal organs and can be used to detect tumors in various locations of the body.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound uses a special endoscope with an ultrasound device placed within the digestive tract.
  • Computed tomography (CT) combines special X-ray equipment with sophisticated computers to produce multiple images useful in the detection of adrenal, thyroid, neuroendocrine, and pituitary tumors.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) produces images of the body’s internal structures by passing radio waves through a powerful magnetic field. This imaging technology is often used in diagnosing adrenal, thyroid, neuroendocrine, and pituitary tumors.
  • PET scans can be useful in determining if tumors are benign or malignant and if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Gallium 68 Dotatate is a radioactive substance that when injected into the veins, and allow tumors to be seen by PET/MRI or PET/CT. It is a significant advance in the detection and evaluation of neuroendocrine and carcinoid tumors. Hoag is among the first hospitals to offer the advanced imaging technology.
  • PET/MRI is a revolutionary hybrid imaging technology that combines magnetic resonance imaging with positron emission tomography, providing more detailed information than either technique can alone, in one step. Hoag is the first hospital on the West Coast to routinely offer MR / PET to patients.
  • Laparoscopy may help determine if cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. A laparoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a small video camera on the end, which is inserted through a small surgical opening on the side of the body.
  • Blood and Urine Tests may be used to look for high levels of the hormones made by some endocrine tumors.
  • Biopsy involves removing a sample of tissue containing the abnormal cells and evaluating them under a microscope to determine if they are cancerous. Several different types of biopsies may be used in diagnosing endocrine cancer.