Skip to Main Content

Endocrine Tumor Treatment

Also called: neuroendocrine tumors

Endocrine tumors affect the organs that make hormones. Hormones are chemicals that travel through your bloodstream and send signals that control body functions such as growth and development, metabolism, mood, and reproduction.

Most endocrine tumors in children noncancerous (benign) or low-grade cancers that grow and spread slowly.

A small percentage of endocrine tumors are faster growing cancers. These can include some types of:

Endocrine tumor symptoms

Symptoms of endocrine tumors vary according to tumor type. Where endocrine tumors begin determines the body functions they affect.

General signs and symptoms of an endocrine tumor include:

  • A thickening or lump in a part of the body
  • Ongoing pain in a specific area
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Feeling nervous or irritable
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or other changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Facial flushing (red cheeks that feel warm)

Endocrine tumor causes

Most childhood endocrine tumors have no known cause. Rarely, some childhood endocrine cancers (such as thyroid tumors) occur after treatment (such as neck radiation) for another cancer.

Some endocrine tumors (including some types of thyroid or adrenal cancers) occur as part of hereditary syndromes that are passed down in families. These syndromes include:

Endocrine tumor diagnosis

Doctors use several tests to diagnose endocrine tumors. Tests may include:

  • Physical exam and health history
  • Blood and urine tests to check hormone levels
  • Imaging tests to learn about the size and location of the tumor
  • Biopsy of the tumor to look at cells under a microscope

Endocrine tumor treatment

Multiple treatments may be used. Chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone replacement therapy may be given along with or after surgery. The goal is to lessen the chance that the tumor will return by killing or reducing the number of cells that may remain.

  • Surgery is considered the best way to treat most endocrine tumors. The goal is to remove the entire tumor or as much as possible.
  • Chemotherapy (“chemo”) uses powerful medicines to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing (dividing) and making more cancer cells. Chemotherapy is especially effective in germ cell tumors of the ovaries and testes.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Radiation therapy may lessen the chance of the cancer returning, even if the tumor is resistant to radiation or has been completely removed.
    • External radiation uses machines outside the body to deliver the x-ray dose.
    • Internal radiation uses needles, seeds, wires, or catheters (tubes) to deliver the radiation directly into or close to the cancer.
    • Some types of thyroid cancer use radioactive iodine to find where the cancer may have spread and to help treat cancer that is left after surgery.
  • Hormone therapy can lower hormone levels in the body to help stop the tumor from growing or relieve tumor symptoms.
    • Sometimes the thyroid gland will be removed because of thyroid cancer. Hormone therapy is typically used to replace hormones needed for normal body functioning. For some types of thyroid cancer, this is also a key part of the treatment to decrease the chance that cancer would grow or come back.

Endocrine tumor prognosis

Survival rates for endocrine tumors depend on the tumor type and location.

  • For most patients with pituitary tumors, thyroid tumors, ovarian, or testicular germ cell tumors, the prognosis is quite good.
  • For patients with adrenal tumors, 5-year survival rates range from less than 40% to greater than 85%, depending on how much the disease has spread when it is diagnosed.

Endocrine tumor clinical trials

St. Jude offers clinical trials and cancer research studies for children, teens, and young adults with endocrine tumors .

Learn more about clinical research at St. Jude.

FLOPET: 18F-DA PET Scans for Neuroblastoma and Pheochromocytoma Tumors

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to test the safety of 18F-DA in children with neuroblastoma or pheochromocytoma.


At least 1 year old

PAINBDY1: Treating Pain in Children with Cancer: Pain Buddy

Study goal:

The main goal of this research study is to help us learn how to better treat pain and symptoms in children going through chemotherapy cancer treatment.


8 to 18 years old

Endocrine tumor care at St. Jude

St. Jude provides the highest quality of care for patients with endocrine tumors:

  • Complete, quality surgery is an important part of treating endocrine tumors. The expert skills and experience of St. Jude specialty surgeons can help improve a child’s chances for the best outcome. Due to hormonal changes for some types of endocrine tumors, expert care before, during and after surgery is also key.
  • Partly as a result of research conducted at St. Jude, the Children’s Oncology Group created a multi-institutional treatment program that studies the biology of the tumors and the incidence of the different types of p53 mutations.
  • St. Jude takes parts in international studies, including work with the Children’s Oncology Group to study how to provide the safest and most effective treatments for patients with both small tumors and tumors that have spread.

More reasons to choose St. Jude for care include:

  • We are consistently ranked among the best childhood cancer centers in the nation by US News & World Report.
  • At St. Jude, we have created an environment where children can be children and families can be together.  
  • We lead more clinical trials for childhood cancer than any other hospital in the U.S.  
  • St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center just for children. A Comprehensive Cancer Center meets rigorous standards for research that develops new and better approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. 
  • The nurse-to-patient ratio at St. Jude is about 1:3 in hematology and oncology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit. 
  • Patients may be able to get expert, compassionate care and treatment closer to their homes through the St. Jude Affiliate Program. 
A statue of children running and holding hands

Seeking treatment at St. Jude

Patients accepted to St. Jude must have a disease we treat and must be referred by a physician or other qualified medical professional. We accept most patients based on their ability to enroll in an open clinical trial.

How to seek treatment

Contact the Physician / Patient Referral Office

Call: 1-888-226-4343 (toll-free) or 901-595-4055 (local)  | Fax: 901-595-4011 | Email: | 24-hour pager: 1-800-349-4334