Improving neuroendocrine cancer care amongst GPs

Meredith Cummins

15/11/2023 4:02:04 PM

SPONSORED: The disease is more prevalent than ovarian and brain cancer, but many medical professionals still don’t know the symptoms.

Man's face with words written on top of it.
More than 50% of patients with neuroendocrine cancer experience symptoms for over five years and visit 4–6 healthcare professionals prior to obtaining a correct diagnosis.

In 2021 neuroendocrine cancer became the seventh most pervasive cancer in Australia. In 2022 there were over 25,550 Australians currently living with the disease.
Yet data shows that more than 50% of patients experience symptoms for over five years and visit 4–6 healthcare professionals before obtaining a correct diagnosis.
In an effort to improve patient outcomes, NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia (NECA) is offering free, RACGP-accredited neuroendocrine tumour (NET) courses, as many doctors don’t receive extensive education on the disease at medical school, which often takes neuroendocrine cancer off their diagnostic radar.
As the first point of contact for patients, education and symptom awareness among GPs play a pivotal role in diagnosing and managing neuroendocrine cancer.
For this reason, all GPs are being encouraged to enrol, given greater awareness is vital to improving diagnosis time and patient outcomes.
NET Symptoms
Recognising NETs can be challenging, primarily because early symptoms can be nonspecific and mimic more common conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), menopause, or asthma.
For patients frequently presenting with the following symptoms, NETs should be a consideration:

  • Dry Flushing: persistent, recurrent skin redness and warmth, particularly in the face and neck. Flushing is void of sweat
  • Diarrhoea: frequent episodes of watery stools, often accompanied by abdominal pain
  • Wheezing: chronic cough or shortness of breath, particularly in patients without a history of respiratory issues
  • Unintentional Weight Loss: significant weight loss without a clear cause
  • Abdominal Pain: chronic, persistent discomfort in the abdomen or back
  • Chronic Fatigue: unrelenting tiredness, even after adequate rest 
It is essential to note that not all patients with NETs will experience all of these symptoms, and their severity can vary widely. Timely recognition and diagnosis are critical to ensure the best possible outcomes.
Understanding NETs
NETs are a group of neoplasms originating in neuroendocrine cells scattered throughout the body, but predominantly in the gastrointestinal tract (including large and small bowel), pancreas, and lungs.
Where other cancer types are named after the organ of origin, like breast or lung, neuroendocrine cancer is named after the cells it originates from, eg lung NETs.
And despite being less common, NETs are on the rise, with over 5550 patients receiving a diagnosis in the past year.
Incidence and prevalence
Once considered rare, NETs are now recognised as more common than previously believed.
Healthcare professionals need to be well-informed about the increasing incidence and prevalence of NETs to provide the best care for their patients, which is why NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia is committed to enhancing awareness and sharing essential resources with the medical community.
Introducing the Optimal Care Pathway
To facilitate optimal care for NET patients, NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia has teamed up with Cancer Australia to establish the Optimal Care Pathway – a comprehensive guide for healthcare professionals, outlining the most effective steps in the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care for NETs.
Collaboration among multidisciplinary teams is highly recommended, as it ensures that patients receive personalised care addressing their unique needs.
RACGP Accredited Education Courses
To support continuous GP education – a vital part of delivering high-quality care to NET patients – NECA provides free Neuroendocrine Tumour Education Courses.
These courses cover critical aspects of NETs, including:
  • NET subtypes: an in-depth exploration of the different types of NETs and their unique characteristics
  • Diagnostic approaches and staging: strategies for accurate diagnosis and the staging of NETs
  • Treatment modalities: a comprehensive overview of available treatments and their associated side effects
  • Comprehensive Patient Care: insights into providing holistic support to NET patients
 Our overall goal is to empower healthcare professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to deliver optimal care to NET patients around Australia, ultimately leading to faster diagnosis times and better outcomes.
For more information head to the NECA website.
This advertorial was commissioned by NeuroEndocrine Cancer Australia and independently reviewed by newsGP.
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Dr Dennis Victor Everingham   16/11/2023 4:49:54 PM

Maintaining cordial and friendly relations