Carcinoid tumors are a slow-growing cancer that can arise in several places throughout your body. Carcinoid tumors, which are one subset of tumors called neuroendocrine tumors, usually appear in the gastrointestinal tract (appendix, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum) and in the lungs.
Carcinoid tumors often don't cause signs and symptoms until late in the disease. Carcinoid tumors can produce and release hormones into your body that cause signs and symptoms such as diarrhea or skin flushing.
Treatment for carcinoid tumors usually includes surgery and may include medication.
In many cases, carcinoid tumors don't cause any signs or symptoms. When they do occur, signs and symptoms are usually vague and depend on the location of the tumor. Signs and symptoms of carcinoid tumors may include:
When to see a doctor
Colon and small intestine
The small intestine and colon are components of your digestive tract, which processes the foods you eat. The small intestine and colon extract nutrients from the foods. What isn't absorbed by the ...
Cancer occurs when a cell develops a mutation in its DNA. The mutation allows the cell to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would normally die. In the case of carcinoid tumors, the accumulating cells form a mass. Cancer cells can invade nearby healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
It's not clear what causes the mutations that can lead to carcinoid tumors.
Carcinoid tumors develop in neuroendocrine cells. These are cells found in various organs throughout the body that perform some nerve cell functions and some hormone-producing endocrine cell functions. Some hormones that are produced by neuroendocrine cells are adrenaline, serotonin and histamine.
Factors that increase the risk of carcinoid tumors include:
The cells of carcinoid tumors can secrete hormones and other chemicals, causing a range of complications, including:
Preparing for your appointment
If it's suspected that you have carcinoid tumors, you're likely to first see your primary care doctor. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in problems involving the gastrointestinal tract (gastroenterologist), a doctor who specializes in lung problems (pulmonologist) or a doctor who treats cancer (oncologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose carcinoid tumors include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for a carcinoid tumor depends on the tumor's location, whether cancer has spread to other areas of the body, the types of hormones the tumor secretes, your overall health and your own preferences.
Treatments can include:
Treatments for carcinoid tumors that have spread to the liver
Medications for carcinoid syndrome
Radiation and chemotherapy
Although alternative medicine treatments can't cure carcinoid tumors, some alternative therapies may help you cope with the signs and symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about safe options.
Alternative treatments for stress
Coping and support
Each person with cancer develops his or her way of coping. But, you don't have to do it alone. If you have questions or would like guidance, talk with a member of your health care team. Also consider the following steps to help you deal with your diagnosis:
Last Updated: 2010-09-25
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