Background Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasm (GEP-NEN) is the most common type of neuroendocrine tumors accounting for 65–75% of neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs). Given the fact that there are few studies on GEP-NENs among Chinese patients, we performed a retrospective study in South China. Methods Totally 178 patients with GEP-NENs treated at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University between January 1995 and May 2012 were analyzed retrospectively. Results Pancreas was found the most common site of involvement (34.8%). 149 patients (83.7%) presented as non-functional tumors with non-specific symptoms such as abdominal pain (33.7%); carcinoid syndrome was not found in this study. Several methods are useful for localization of GEP-NENs, yielding varied detection rates from 77.8% to 98.7%. Positive rates of chromogranin A (CgA) and synaptophysin (Syn) immunhistochemically were 69.1% and 90.2%, respectively. 87 patients (51.5%) had G1 tumors, 31(18.3%) G2 tumors and 51 (30.2%) G3 tumors. Neuroendocrine tumor (NET), neuroendocrine carcinoma (NEC) and mixed adenoendocrine carcinoma (MANEC) were 69.8%, 27.2% and 3.0%, respectively. 28.1% of patients presented with distant disease. Surgery was performed in 152 (85.4%) patients, and overall 5-year survival rate was 54.5%. Functionality, G1 grading and NET classification were associated with favorable prognosis in univariate analysis. Distant metastasis contributed to unfavorable prognosis of these tumors. Conclusions Nonfunctional tumors with non-specific symptoms account for the majority of GEP-NENs. Diagnosis depends on pathological classification. Multidisciplinary treatments could help improve the outcome.