This section outlines treatments that are the standard of care (the best proven treatments available) for this specific type of tumor. When making treatment plan decisions, patients are also encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study to test a new treatment to evaluate whether it is safe, effective, and possibly better than standard treatment. Your doctor can help you review all treatment options. For more information, see the Clinical Trials  and Current Research  sections.
Different types of doctors often work together to create a patient's overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary team .
Descriptions of the most common treatment options for an endocrine tumor are listed below. For more information, please see the Treatment section for the specific tumor type  that has been diagnosed.
Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of the tumor, if it is cancerous; possible side effects; and the patient's preferences and overall health. Your doctor may also recommend genetic testing of your tumor to help plan treatment. Learn more about making treatment decisions .
The purpose of surgery is typically to remove the entire tumor, along with some of the healthy tissue around it, called the margin. A surgical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer using surgery. If the tumor cannot be removed entirely, “debulking” surgery may be performed. Debulking surgery is a procedure in which the goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Side effects of surgery include weakness, fatigue, and pain for the first few days following the procedure.
Learn more about surgery .
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill tumor cells, usually by stopping the cells' ability to grow and divide. Systemic chemotherapy is delivered through the bloodstream to reach tumor cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is given by a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating tumors with medication. A chemotherapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. A patient may receive one drug at a time or combinations of different drugs at the same time.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the individual and the dose used, but they can include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away once treatment is finished.
Learn more about chemotherapy  and preparing for treatment . The medications used to treat tumors are continually being evaluated. Talking with your doctor is often the best way to learn about the medications prescribed for you, their purpose, and their potential side effects or interactions with other medications. Learn more about your prescriptions by using searchable drug databases .
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to kill tumor cells. A doctor who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat a tumor is called a radiation oncologist. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. When radiation treatment is given using implants, it is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy. A radiation therapy regimen usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time.
Side effects from radiation therapy may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, upset stomach, and loose bowel movements. Most side effects go away soon after treatment is finished.
Learn more about radiation therapy .
The goal of hormone therapy is often to lower the levels of hormones in the body. Hormone therapy may be given to help stop the tumor from growing or to relieve symptoms caused by the tumor. In addition, for thyroid cancer, hormone therapy will be given if the thyroid gland has been removed, to replace the hormone that is needed by the body to function properly.
Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy) is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the tumor. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to bolster, target, or restore immune system function. Examples of immunotherapy include cancer vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and interferons.
Alpha interferon is a form of biologic therapy given as an injection under the skin. This is sometimes used to help relieve symptoms caused by the tumor, but it can have severe side effects including fatigue, depression, and flu-like symptoms. Learn more about immunotherapy .
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the tumor's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of tumor cells while limiting damage to normal cells, usually leading to fewer side effects than other cancer medications.
Recent studies show that not all tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor. As a result, doctors can better match each patient with the most effective treatment whenever possible. In addition, many research studies are taking place now to find out more about specific molecular targets and new treatments directed at them.
Depending on the type of endocrine tumor, targeted therapy may be a possible treatment option. For instance, targeted therapies, such as sunitinib (Sutent) and everolimus (Afinitor), have been approved for treating advanced islet cell tumors . Early results of clinical trials (research studies) with targeted therapy drugs for other types of endocrine tumors are promising, but more research is needed to prove they are effective. Learn more about these treatments in the Current Research  section. Because research on targeted therapy is ongoing, please talk with your doctor to learn about targeted therapy treatment options. Learn more about targeted treatments .
Recurrent endocrine tumor
Once your treatment is complete and there is a remission (absence of symptoms; also called “no evidence of disease” or NED), talk with your doctor about the possibility of the tumor returning. Many survivors feel worried or anxious that the tumor will come back. Learn more about coping with this fear .
If the tumor does return after the original treatment, it is called a recurrent tumor. It may come back in the same place (called a local recurrence), nearby (regional recurrence), or in another place (distant recurrence).
When this occurs, a cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence. After testing is done, you and your doctor will talk about your treatment options. Often the treatment plan will include the therapies described above (such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) but may be used in a different combination or given at a different pace. Your doctor may also suggest clinical trials that are studying new ways to treat this type of recurrent cancer.
People with a recurrent tumor often experience emotions such as disbelief or fear. Patients are encouraged to talk with their health care team about these feelings and ask about support services to help them cope. Learn more about dealing with recurrence .
Metastatic endocrine tumor
If a cancerous tumor has spread to another location in the body, it is called metastatic cancer.
Patients with this diagnosis are encouraged to talk with doctors who are experienced in treating this stage of cancer, because there can be different opinions about the best treatment plan. Learn more about seeking a second opinion  before starting treatment, so you are comfortable with the treatment plan chosen. This discussion may include clinical trials .
Your health care team may recommend a treatment plan that includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy.
In addition to treatment to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer (also called disease-directed treatment), an important part of cancer care is relieving a person's symptoms and side effects. It includes supporting the patient with his or her physical, emotional, and social needs, an approach called palliative or supportive care . People often receive disease-directed therapy and treatment to ease symptoms at the same time.
If disease-directed treatment is not successful, this may also be called advanced cancer. This diagnosis is stressful, and it may be difficult to discuss. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your doctor and health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns. The health care team is there to help, and many team members have special skills, experience, and knowledge to support patients and their families. Learn more about advanced cancer care planning .
Find out more about common terms used during treatment .