This website is intended for an international audience, excluding the United States, Canada and France
This website is intended for an international audience, excluding the United States, Canada and France

Helen, Living with NETs

“The time between examinations and consultations are stressful. Keep in mind that the disease is very slow in its evolution.”

View Helen’s story >

Ultrasound

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves, which people can not hear, to build up a picture of the inside of the body. These scans are completely painless. During an ultrasound test, these sound waves are transmitted through body tissues using an instrument called a transducer. This information is then displayed on a computer monitor.

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These scans are usually carried out in the radiology department of a hospital. Two types of ultrasound that may be used to help diagnose NETs include:

  • Abdominal ultrasounds – can be used to examine organs inside the abdomen. For example, they can easily detect NETs and secondary tumours (metastases) in the liver. However, abdominal ultrasounds are limited in detecting very small tumours. Abdominal ultrasounds are also often used for scanning pregnant women.
  • Endoscopic ultrasounds – can help pick up smaller tumours that might not be clearly visible on an abdominal ultrasound. These types of ultrasounds are usually carried out under sedation and involve looking at the digestive tract with an endoscope. The ultrasound endoscope is usually inserted into the digestive tract via the anus. Biopsy can also be performed during the endoscopic ultrasound.

Computed tomography (CT)

CT and MRI are two of the most important imaging techniques for diagnosing NETs. These techniques can both be used to determine the position and size of tumours.

A CT scanner is a special type of X-ray machine that uses radiation to provide a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. The CT scan is usually carried out by a radiologist. Regular CT scans are useful to find out more about the rate of tumour growth and how your NETs are responding to treatment.

Before the CT scan, you may be asked to have an injection or drink a fluid containing a ‘contrast agent’ or dye that shows up on the scan. The contrast agent can highlight specific areas inside the body. This can show a clearer image of the results.

During the scan you will need to lie very still for 10 to 20 minutes as the CT scanner passes over you. Unlike an MRI machine the CT scanner does not surround your whole body. It might therefore be more comfortable for people who suffer from a fear of small spaces (claustrophobia).

See the practical tips section for more advice on preparing for imaging scans.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

MRI is a type of scan that uses a powerful magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make cross-sectional images of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels. A computer turns the images into three-dimensional pictures. An MRI scan may be used if an ultrasound scan or CT scan do not provide doctors with enough information to make a diagnosis.

Similar to having a CT scan you will need to lie very still. The scan may take longer (anytime from 30 minutes to up to 1 hour) as you lie inside while the machine scans your body.

A radiologist will then look at these images to determine the difference between normal and diseased tissue. If a tumour is identified in this way, further tests may be needed to confirm the type of NET. The radiologist may discuss initial results of the MRI with you right after the test. Complete results are usually ready for your doctor a few days later.

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As MRI scans are based on magnetic fields and not X-rays, they are relatively harmless. There are certain preparations and precautions that your doctor should tell you about before the test. For example, you’ll need to remove any metal objects. You will also be given headphones to block out the noise since the scan can be rather loud.

See the practical tips section for more advice on preparing for imaging scans.

Echocardiography

An echocardiography is an imaging test that uses ultrasound to produce moving images of the heart and blood flow through the heart’s valves and structures.

Some types of NETs that are associated with carcinoid syndrome will release hormones called serotonin and tachykinins into the blood stream. These hormones can travel to the heart and affect the cardiac valves.

 

If you have been diagnosed with carcinoid syndrome your specialist doctor may carry out an echocardiography to examine your heart, and/or a blood test called a NT proBNP, which is used to help detect and evaluate the risk of heart failure.

The echocardiography probe is placed on the thorax and images are taken through the chest wall (transthoracic echocardiography).

Depending on the results of the echocardiography, you may need further investigations, such as transesophageal echocardiography or a cardiac MRI.

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Ipsen
This website is intended for an international audience, excluding the United States, Canada and France. This website has been developed by Ipsen in collaboration with those living with NETs and the healthcare professionals who care for them. Ipsen would like to thank everyone for their valuable insights and stories. All names used on this website are not necessarily real names. Visit www.ipsen.com for more information about us. Website design and development by Kanga Health Ltd.