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Referral to a specialist

Your GP can arrange for you to see a specialist doctor if you have symptoms that could be due to cancer.

Seeing your GP

Most patients who see a GP do not have cancer and have symptoms due to a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

However, there aren't specific referral guidelines for neuroendocrine tumours. Your symptoms may be the same as for other types of cancer.

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have any symptoms that could be due to cancer.

Urgent referral

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time limit does not exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment.

Which specialist

Your GP looks at your symptoms and decides which type of specialist to refer you to. For example:

  • you see a gastroenterologist or a gastrointestinal surgeon if you have bowel or stomach problems
  • you see a chest or respiratory specialist if you have problems with your breathing
  • you might see an endocrinology specialist if you have hormonal symptoms

What to expect

Your specialist:

  • asks about your medical history and symptoms
  • examines you

They also arrange any tests that you need. These will depend on your symptoms and the results of any tests you have already had.

Referral to the neuroendocrine team

Your hospital specialist might then refer you to a team who specialise in neuroendocrine tumours. This group of professionals is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

Because NETs are rare cancers, your MDT might be at a hospital a bit further away than your local hospital. Your MDT might include:

  • a doctor specialising in treating cancer (an oncologist)
  • a surgeon
  • an endocrinologist - a doctor specialising in problems with the endocrine (hormone) systems
  • a gastroenterologist (specialist in problems with the stomach and intestines or liver and pancreas)
  • a palliative care consultant (a doctor that specialises in controlling symptoms)
  • a dietician
  • a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) – these nurses are often your first contact and help you to understand the information from all the other members of the MDT

The neuroendocrine doctor will examine you and review your medical history and test results. They might arrange for more tests.

Your neuroendocrine MDT work together to decide on the best way to manage your care.

Last reviewed: 
15 Jan 2019
  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2015

  • Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer
    Healthcare Improvement Scotland, May 2014

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

  • Neuroendocrine gastro-entero-pancreatic tumors: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    K Oberg and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2012
    Volume 23, Supplement 7

  • Pulmonary neuroendocrine (carcinoid) tumors: European Neuroendocrine Tumor Society expert consensus and recommendations for best practice for typical and atypical pulmonary carcinoids 
    M E Caplin and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2015, Vol 26, Issue 8, Pages 1604-1620

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