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While doctors can seldom explain why one person gets endocrine cancer and another doesn't, we do know that the disease is not contagious; no one can "catch" endocrine cancer from another person. Scientists do not know exactly what causes this disease, but research does show that some people are more likely to develop it than others.  Some endocrine cancers are inherited (run in the family).  If there is a strong family history of endocrine cancers of the same type or of different types you may also have a tendency to develop a cancer of this type.

Because endocrine cancer can occur in glands in different parts of the body, the symptoms are different for different types.  The most common symptom of thyroid cancer, which is by far the most common type of endocrine cancer, is a lump or swelling in the neck

The only sure way to tell whether cancer is present is with a biopsy. The doctor removes a small sample of tumor tissue, which is examined under a microscope by a pathologist. If cancer cells are found, the pathologist will usually determine the stage or grade of the tumor, which tells whether the cancer is spreading.  Based on the biopsy results, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in endocrine cancer.

Because of advances in diagnosis and treatment of endocrine cancer, a longer and better life is possible for patients today. Treatment planning takes into account the size and location of the tumor, whether it is likely to grow slowly or rapidly, and the general health and age of the patient.  Four types of treatments may be used:

Surgery is the most common treatment for endocrine cancer.  The goal of the surgery is to completely remove the tumor and a safe margin of the tissue around it.  Depending on the outcome of the surgery, the doctor may also recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop their growth. Radiation therapy is generally given in the outpatient department of a hospital or clinic. Most often, patients receive radiation therapy five days a week for five to six weeks.