Neuroendocrine scans are tests used to determine where neuroendocrine tumours are located, or to see where an endocrine tumour has started (primary site). The scans can also be performed in order to check if the disease has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Neuroendocrine tumours are relatively rare, but as they start in the neuroendocrine cells in the body, they can occur anywhere. It is most common for them to occur in the pancreas, but they can also occur in the brain, thyroid, intestines and lungs. There are a number of symptoms, which include heart palpitations, sweating, flushing, high blood pressure and diarrhoea.
When undergoing a scan, you will be injected with a radioactive tracer (normally Tc-99m Tektrotyd or I-123 MIBG). Images are obtained at 20 min and 2 – 4h post injection (sometimes also at 24h). Imaging time is about 45 min – 1h30min. The radioactive material leaves the body relatively quickly, and is generally out of the system within a day depending on the radioisotope used. The dosage is very low, so there should be no cause for concern as side effects are extremely unlikely. The scan is highly effective, and is a useful tool in the field of neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis. Neuroendocrine scans can also be valuable in determining the spread of the disease, and can help your doctor to come up with a suitable treatment plan as early as possible.
New radiotracers are available at PET/CT Centres in the country. The most recent tracer, Ga-68 DOTATOC/DOTANOC is available at Tygerberg Hospital's PET/CT Centre. It renders more efficient tracing of neuroendocrine tumours.