What Is Endocrine Cancer?

Endocrine cancer is a tumor growth that affects parts of the body that secrete hormones, the chemicals that regulate the activity of other organs or cells in the body. For example, part of the pancreas is made up of specialized cells clustered together in islands, called islets of Langerhans. These cells produce multiple hormones, the most critical one being insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood.

Because an endocrine tumor arises from cells that produce hormones, the tumor itself can produce hormones and cause serious illness.

A neuroendocrine tumor is a type of endocrine cancer that begins in the hormone-producing cells of the neuroendocrine system. The neuroendocrine system cells are a cross between traditional endocrine cells and nerve cells. They are found throughout the body in organs, such as the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. These cells perform specific functions, such as regulating air and blood flow through the lungs, and controlling the speed at which food moves through the gastrointestinal tract. Other types of endocrine cancers include:

  • Adrenal gland cancer
  • Islet cell tumor
  • Neuroendocrine tumor
  • Parathyroid tumor
  • Pituitary gland tumor
  • Thyroid cancer