Endocrine Tumor: Introduction

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Endocrine Tumors. To see other pages, use the menu. Think of that menu as a roadmap to this full guide.

About the endocrine system

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

For example, part of the pancreas is made up of specialized cells clustered together in islands within the organ, called islets of Langerhans. These cells make different types of hormones. The most important hormone is insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood.

Part of the endocrine system is the neuroendocrine system, which is made up of cells that are a cross between traditional endocrine cells, or hormone-producing cells, and nerve cells. Neuroendocrine cells are found throughout the body in organs such as the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. They perform specific functions, such as controlling the flow of air and blood through the lungs and controlling how quickly food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.

About endocrine tumors

A tumor begins when healthy cells in the body change and grow out of control, forming a mass. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor will not spread.

An endocrine tumor is a mass that affects the parts of the body that secrete hormones. Because an endocrine tumor starts in the cells that make hormones, the tumor itself can make hormones and cause serious illness.

There are several types of endocrine tumors. For more specific information on each type, select a name below:

The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain how many people are diagnosed with this disease and general survival rates. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.