Condition: Endocrine tumours

Endocrine tumours can affect any of the endocrine glands throughout the body including the thyroid, adrenal, pituitary and pancreas.

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What are
endocrine tumours?

The endocrine system is made up of a number of glands that produce hormones that control many of the body’s functions. Endocrine tumours are cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign) masses that grow on these glands. Tumours can occur in any of the major endocrine glands but most commonly affect the thyroid, adrenal, pituitary and pancreas.

What causes
endocrine tumours?

There’s no exact cause for endocrine tumours. It’s thought that tumours occur by chance due to a DNA mutation which causes cells to grow abnormally.

A family history of a rare syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, conditions called neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis, or having direct family members with a carcinoid tumour can increase the risk of developing an endocrine tumour.

What are the symptoms
of endocrine tumours?

Some endocrine tumours will affect the function of the gland causing hormonal changes, but many will cause no symptoms.

In the case of a thyroid tumour, a lump may be noticeable visibly or by touch, with no other obvious symptoms. However, it can also cause changes in hormone levels resulting in symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ that sits directly beneath the brain. A pituitary tumour can result in either too much or too little hormone production which can lead to symptoms such as sexual dysfunction, depression, abnormal growth and fertility issues. A large pituitary tumour may also press on the nerve connecting the eyes and the brain, causing vision changes.

The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and produce hormones that help maintain metabolism and distinguish male and female sexual and physical characteristics. An adrenal tumour can cause unusual weight changes, abnormal hair growth and a lowered sex drive.

The pancreas plays a crucial role in controlling blood sugar levels through the production of insulin. Pancreas tumours can cause an overproduction of insulin and other hormones, which can negatively impact blood sugar levels causing a number of symptoms such as blurred vision, headaches, anxiety and feeling faint.

Specialist blood tests and imaging are used to make a diagnosis of an endocrine tumour and identify if it’s cancerous or non-cancerous. Blood tests can also detect whether a tumour is affecting hormone production.

What are the treatment options
for endocrine tumours?

The treatment of an endocrine tumour will depend on whether it’s thought to be cancerous or non-cancerous. In most cases, endocrine tumours are benign so can be managed conservatively. If a tumour is causing harm, full treatment is necessary and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

Endocrine tumours Specialists

We have brought together a group of leading Consultant Endocrinologists to form our Endocrinology team. With a huge depth of experience covering diabetes, adrenal disorders, metabolic syndrome and much more, these expert clinicians are the best in their field and are all focused on delivering the very best patient care.