Disease: Carcinoid tumors


    Carcinoid tumors are a type of slow-growing cancer that can arise in several places throughout your body. Carcinoid tumors, which are one subset of tumors called neuroendocrine tumors, usually begin in the digestive tract (stomach, appendix, small intestine, colon, rectum) or 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 medications.

    Carcinoid tumor care at Mayo Clinic

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    In some 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.

    Carcinoid tumors in the lungs

    Signs and symptoms of carcinoid lung tumors include:

    • Chest pain
    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Diarrhea
    • Redness or a feeling of warmth in your face and neck (skin flushing)
    • Weight gain, particularly around the midsection and upper back
    • Pink or purple marks on the skin that look like stretch marks

    Carcinoid tumors in the digestive tract

    Signs and symptoms of carcinoid tumors in the digestive tract include:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea, vomiting and inability to pass stool due to intestinal blockage (bowel obstruction)
    • Rectal bleeding
    • Rectal pain
    • Redness or a feeling of warmth in your face and neck (skin flushing)

    When to see a doctor

    If you experience any signs and symptoms that bother you and are persistent, make an appointment with your doctor.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    It's not clear what causes carcinoid tumors. In general, cancer occurs when a cell develops mutations in its DNA. The mutations allow the cell to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would normally die.

    The accumulating cells form a tumor. Cancer cells can invade nearby healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

    Doctors don't know what causes the mutations that can lead to carcinoid tumors. But they know that carcinoid tumors develop in neuroendocrine cells.

    Neuroendocrine cells are found in various organs throughout the body. They perform some nerve cell functions and some hormone-producing endocrine cell functions. Some hormones that are produced by neuroendocrine cells are cortisol, histamine, insulin and serotonin.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Tests and procedures used to diagnose carcinoid tumors include:

    • Blood tests. If you have a carcinoid tumor, your blood may contain high levels of hormones secreted by a carcinoid tumor or byproducts created when those hormones are broken down by the body.
    • Urine tests. People with carcinoid tumors have excess levels of a chemical in their urine that's produced when the body breaks down hormones secreted by carcinoid tumors.
    • Imaging tests. Imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), octreotide scan and X-ray, may help your doctor pinpoint the carcinoid tumor's location.
    • A scope or camera that sees inside your body. Your doctor may use a long, thin tube equipped with a lens or camera to examine areas inside your body.

      An endoscopy, which involves passing a scope down your throat, may help your doctor see inside your gastrointestinal tract. Bronchoscopy, using a scope passed down your throat and into your lungs, can help find lung carcinoid tumors. Passing a scope through your rectum (colonoscopy) can help diagnose rectal carcinoid tumors.

      To see inside your small intestine, your doctor may recommend a test using a pill-sized camera that you swallow (capsule endoscopy).

    • Removing tissue for laboratory testing. A sample of tissue from the tumor (biopsy) may be collected to confirm your diagnosis. What type of biopsy you'll undergo depends on where your tumor is located.

      In some cases a surgeon may use a needle to draw cells out of the tumor. In other cases, a biopsy may be collected during surgery. The tissue is sent to a laboratory for testing to determine the types of cells in the tumor and how aggressive those cells appear under the microscope.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    The cells of carcinoid tumors can secrete hormones and other chemicals, causing a range of complications, including:

    • Carcinoid syndrome. Carcinoid syndrome causes redness or a feeling of warmth in your face and neck (skin flushing), chronic diarrhea, and difficulty breathing, among other signs and symptoms.
    • Carcinoid heart disease. Carcinoid tumors may secrete hormones that can cause thickening of the lining of heart chambers, valves and blood vessels. This can lead to leaky heart valves and heart failure that may require valve-replacement surgery. Carcinoid heart disease can usually be controlled with medications.
    • Cushing's syndrome. A lung carcinoid tumor can produce an excess of a hormone that can cause your body to produce too much of the hormone cortisol.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    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:

    • Find out enough about carcinoid tumors to make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor questions about your condition. Ask members of your health care team to recommend resources where you can get more information.
    • Talk to others with cancer. Support groups for people with cancer put you in touch with others who have faced the same challenges you're facing. Ask your doctor about groups in your area. Or contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society, or the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation. Try the online chat rooms and message boards at the American Cancer Society's Cancer Survivors Network.
    • Control what you can about your health. A cancer diagnosis can make you feel as if you have no control over your health. But you can take steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you'll better cope with your cancer treatment.

      Choose healthy meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. When you feel up to it, work light exercise into your daily routine. Cut stress when possible. Get plenty of sleep so that you feel rested when you wake up.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Risk factors

    Factors that increase the risk of carcinoid tumors include:

    • Older age. Older adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor than are younger people or children.
    • Sex. Women are more likely than men to develop carcinoid tumors.
    • Family history. A family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I (MEN I), increases the risk of carcinoid tumors. In people with MEN I, multiple tumors occur in glands of the endocrine system.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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