The family of a 12-year-old child had long mistaken his repeated diarrhea and stomach pains as irritable bowel syndrome, until an endoscopy showed that he had neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), the Hope Foundation for Cancer Care said yesterday.
The diagnosis made the child the youngest patient in the nation ever to develop the rare form of tumor that also afflicted late Apple founder Steve Jobs, the foundation told a press conference in Taipei to raise awareness for the disease ahead of NET Awareness Day on Monday.
NETs mostly occur in the digestive tract, the pancreas and the lungs, with common symptoms including recurrent diarrhea, peptic ulcer diseases and intermittent low blood sugar levels, the foundation said.
Photo: Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times
However, as the disease may be asymptomatic in some patients, people displaying any suspicious symptoms are advised to undergo an advanced health examination to seek an early diagnosis, the foundation said.
Citing statistics compiled by the National Health Research Institutes last year, Digestive Endoscopy Society of Taiwan director-general Wang Hsiu-po (王秀伯) said that NETs occur at a rate of 1.51/100,000 persons a year in the nation, with about 400 new cases reported annually.
“Endoscopy can help nearly 80 percent of patients with NETs to detect the tumors before they metastasize to other parts of the body,” Wang said.
National Taiwan University Hospital’s Division of Gastroenterology physician Cheng Tsu-yao (鄭祖耀) said that in the past, most NETs were not discovered until between five and seven years after they began to develop, and more than 50 percent of such patients were diagnosed after the malignancies had spread.
“The malevolence of NETs varies depending on which organs they attack, with those growing in the pancreas and the small intestine being the most malevolent, as in the case of Jobs, whose pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor was caught at a late stage,” Cheng said.
He said people who think they may have developed the tumors can ascertain their condition via a number of measures, such as endoscopy, abdominal ultrasound, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.
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