What does NET stand for?
The abbreviation NET is determined from Neuroendocrine Tumour. NETs originate from cells, found anywhere in the body, that have the ability to make hormones. A NET develops when these cells grow abnormally with typical sites including the intestine, pancreas, stomach and lungs.
How common are NETs?
New cases in the UK are thought to be relatively rare with 3 new cases per 100,000 population, however as they are often slow growing there are about 35 cases living per 100,000 population or there about. This means that there are about 10,000 people in the UK with NETs in any year. This rate makes them more common than gastric cancer, myeloma cancer and non- Hodgkin and Lymphoma, making this type not quite as rare as thought. Over 100 patients came to The Wellington last year for NETs related cases.
What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine is a method of imaging the physiological processes of the body using radioactive tracers. Put more simply it is a way of looking at how the body is working. It is quite a different process from x-rays, CT, MRI and Ultrasound all of which are mostly looking at the anatomy of the body.
To look at the function of the body, Nuclear Medicine uses gamma rays. These are very similar to x-rays used in the x-ray department. The major difference is that the gamma rays are emitted by pharmaceuticals injected into the bloodstream rather than being produced by machines outside the body. The gamma rays are detected by this gamma camera that builds up a picture of the area of the body under investigation. In order to keep the radiation doses to patients as low as possible, the activity injected is kept very low. This means that it may take quite a long time (perhaps 30 minutes) to build up a picture. (Ref: RCR)
Are PET scans dangerous?
For the patient, PET scans are very safe. You have a radioactive injection, but this is a small amount and the radiation goes away (decays) very quickly.
PET scan patients will be advised about close contact with pregnant women, babies and young children after their scan.
For NET patients the most common PET scans are Gallium 68 Octreotate and FDG PET.
What do some nuclear medicine scans take more than one visit?
Some scan such as the Octreo scan and mIBG (link to page) take place over a series of days; this is because it can take time for these tracers to build up and produce good photographs.
Why do I need to travel abroad for Radionuclide Therapy?
In the US the use of Lutetium-177 (LU-177) and Yttium (Y-90) are currently only approved for use in a small number of medical trial centres. LU-177 Octreotate has been used in Europe for over a decade and is also available in Australia and India. During the past 15 years, studies of radio-peptide therapy for various neuroendocrine cancers have shown good clinical and radiological results with minimal side effects.