Carcinoid Tumors: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Surgery, Alternative Treatment, Risk Factors

Is Carcinoid Tumor a Cancer?

Carcinoid Tumors are a type of cancer that grows slowly and spreads to different body parts. This is the type of cancer that usually begins in the lungs or the digestive tract (colon, rectum, appendix, stomach, small intestine). Subset of tumors known as neuroendroctine tumors are what make up the carcinoid tumors.

Carcinoid Tumors will not exhibit any signs or symptoms until the disease is in a late stage. Skin flushing or diarrheas are some of the symptoms and signs of characinoid tumors because it produces and releases hormones into the body.

Carcinoid Tumors

Medication may be included in the treatment of Carcinoid tumors but surgery is always necessary.

Causes of Carcinoid Tumors

It is unclear as to what is the cause of carcinoid tumors. When mutation occurs in the DNA of a cell then cancer will develop. Normal cell normally dies but the mutated cell will only continue subdividing.

A tumor is formed by the accumulating cells. The healthy tissues that are nearby the accumulated cancer cells will be invaded which spreads to other parts of the body.

Doctors have not yet discerned the cause of mutation that leads to carcinoid tumors. But the definite thing that they know is that the carcinoid tumors always develop in the neuroendoctrine cells.

Various organs of the body have neuroendoctrine cells. The main functions of the cells are hormonal and nerve cell functions. Insulin, serotonin, histamine and cortisol are some of the hormones produced by the neuroendroctrine cells.

Signs and Symptoms of Carcinoid Tumors

No signs and symptoms can be exhibited by carcinoid tumors in some patient cases. The location of the tumor will determine how vague the signs and symptoms will be when they appear.

Carcinoid Tumors in the Lungs

The symptoms and of carcinoid tumors in the lungs are:

  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Short breath
  • Having diarrhea
  • A feeling of warmth in your face and neck/redness (skin flushing)
  • Gaining weight around the upper posterior
  • Marks that are purple and pink resembling stretch marks.

The Digestive Tract Carcinoid Tumors

The Digestive Tract Carcinoid Tumors

The symptoms and signs of carcinoid tumors in the digestive system may include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • You will not be able to pass stool due to blockage in the intestine (bowel obstruction), vomiting and nausea.
  • Bleeding in the rectum
  • Warm feeling in your neck and face and redness (skin flushing)

Prepare for Doctor’s Appointment for Carcinoid Tumors

Signs or symptoms that may alarm you can prompt you to visit your family doctor or your care doctor. If carcinoid tumor is suspected by your doctor then you may be recommended to a:

  • A doctor specializing in problems of digestion (gastroenterologist)
  • A doctor specializing in lung problems (pulmonologist)
  • A doctor treating cancer (oncologist)

You have to be prepared well prior to your appointment because you will likely to be having brief appointment and a lot of details have to be discussed.

Risk Factors for Carcinoid Tumors

Risk factors are likely to be escalated by the following:

  • Sex. Men are less likely to develop the carcinoid tumors than women.
  • Family history. History of multiple endocrine neoplasia in a family type I (MEN I) increase the chance of getting carcinoid tumors. Multiple tumors will occur in people with MEN I within the glands of the endocrine system.
  • Older age. Children and younger people have low chances of being diagnosed with the carcinoid tumors than older people.

Complications of Carcinoid Tumors

Chemicals and hormones can be secreted by the cells of the carcinoid tumors. The range of complications caused includes:

  • Carcinoid syndrome. Warm feelings and redness in will occasion on your neck and face (skin flushing), difficulty in breathing chronic diarrhea among other symptoms.
  • Crushing syndrome. Carcinoid tumor affecting lungs produce a hormone that triggers the body to produce excess cortisol hormone.
  • Carcinoid heart disease. Hormones thicken the hearts chamber, blood vessels and the valves are produced by carcinoid tumors. Surgery for replacing valves may be required due to the fact that the heart valves can be leaky and might bring the failure of the heart.

Tests to Diagnose Carcinoid Tumors

The procedures and tests that are conducted when diagnosing carcinoid tumors include:

  • Blood tests. There can be hormones that are secreted by carcinoid tumors in your blood.A byproduct of the hormones can also be detected from your blood as a result of being broken down by your body.
  • Urine test. Chemicals in urine are excess when an individual has carcinoid tumors. This is due to the fact that the body breaks down the hormones that are secreted by carcinoid tumors.
  • Imaging test. This test entails magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), X-ray, octereotide scan and post emission tomography (PET).

Endoscopy, Pronchoscopy and Colonoscopy for Testing Carcinoid Tumors

Long tube that is thin and equipped with cameras can be used by your doctors in order to investigate the inside of your body.

The doctor can see your gastrointestinal tract by passing down the throat a scope. This process is called endoscopy. Lung carcinoid tumors can be detected through introducing a scope down your throat into the lungs (pronchoscopy). Colonoscopy can help in the diagnosis of the carcinoid tumors in the rectum.

A bill size camera that you will have to swallow will be used to see the condition of your small intestine. (Capsule Endoscopy).

Sample Tumor Tissue Testing for Carcinoid Tumors

For the confirmation of your diagnosis a biopsy (sample of the tumor) may be collected. The location of your tumor will determine the type of biopsy you will go through.

Cells of the tumor can be drawn by the surgeon via a needle. A biopsy can also be collected in the course of a surgery. How the cells are aggressive will be determined by the test that will be conducted in the laboratory via a microscope.

Treatment for Carcinoid Tumors

The location of the tumor will determine the treatment of the carcinoid tumors. Your health condition in overall will be another determiner, also hormonal type that is secreted and if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Surgery for Carcinoid Tumors

Surgery might remove completely the carcinoid tumor on early detection. It may not be possible to remove completely the carcinoid tumor if the spread has become so wide. Tumors are removed as much as it can be by most of the surgeons. This will help in controlling the signs and symptoms.

Medications for Carcinoid Tumors

Treatment of carcinoid tumors through medicine includes:

Blocking Hormonal Secretion of Carcinoid Tumors Cells Through the use of Drugs

Tumor growth can be slowed and carcinoid syndrome’s symptoms can be reduced through using medication that blocks the hormones being secreted by the cancer cells.

Injection under the skin such as ianreotide (Somatuline Depot) and octreotide (Sandostatin) are administered. Diarrhea, pain in the abdomen and bloating are some of the side effects that might accrue because of these injections.

Boosting the Immune System Through Drugs

The symptoms of carcinoid tumorscan be reduced and the growth of the carcinoid tumors slowed through the use of injecting medication known as interferon Alfa (pegasys, Intorn A and others). The immune system of the body will be stimulated and in turn it will attack the cancer cells.

Treating Carcinoid Tumors When They Have Reached the Liver

Carcinoid tumors usually spreads (called as metastasize) to the liver. The viable option for treating this condition is:

  • Liver surgery. Hepatic resection (removing part affected part of the liver) will help in controlling the signs and symptoms that the liver cancer causes.
  • Inhibiting the supply of blood to the liver tumors. The hepatic artery is clogged which cuts the supply of blood to the liver tumors. This process is known as hepatic artery emblolization. Blood from other blood vessels will survive due to the fact that they will still be supplied from other blood vessels.
  • Using heat or cold to kill cancer cells. Heat treatment is delivered by radiofrequency ablation. This causes the tumor cells to die. Cycles of thawing and freezing are used in the process of Cryoablation killing the cancer cells.

Alternative Treatment for Carcinoid Tumors

Although the alternative treatment mechanism cannot cure carcinoid tumors, these therapies help you to cope with the treatment of cancer and the signs and symptoms that accompanies it. Seek your doctor’s advice on the safe options.

Alternative Treatments for Stress Due to Carcinoid Tumors

Cancer diagnosis is an experience that is stressful. Skin flushing can easily be triggered by stress if you are having carcinoid tumors. In order to be in total control of stress, alternative and complimentary therapies can help you to cope with the diagnosis. Seek your doctor’s perception regarding:

Coping with Carcinoid Tumors

Every individual with carcinoid tumors will have to develop a way to cope. A member of a health care team that you belong can help to give guidance on questions that you might be having. The following steps can help you when dealing with carcinoid tumors:

Seek more information before deciding about your care. Doctors should answer your question. Sources of information about your condition can be recommended by your health care team.

Talk with other carcinoid tumor patients. Other people who have been through the same condition that you are in can be met through support groups. Your doctor can tell you about groups in your area. You can also consult the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation or American Cancer Society in your local area. Message boards and chartrooms have been provided at the American Cancer Survivorship Network.

Be in control of you healthy condition when you can. In order to cope with your cancer treatment and maintain a healthy lifestyle you need to take some steps. Fruit and vegetables should be plenty in every meal that should be healthily chosen. Light routine exercise and being stress free is another factor. You will need to be fully rested when you wake up and thus you should have plenty of sleep.

Prognosis for Carcinoid Tumors

The cancer and the symptoms can be cured altogether if a carcinoid tumors is removed completely. Medication can easily control carcinoid tumor even if surgeons cannot remove the carcinoid tumors in its entirety.

Prognosis for patients with carcinoid tumors is more favorable than other forms of cancers. Post diagnosis the five-year survival rate is up to 70 to 80 percent. Occasional symptoms might accrue but the fact is most people lead normal lives.

Medicinal control of carcinoid tumors can be hindered when it produces more hormones as it spreads. Other alternative treatment is advisable or surgery is the option.

It will not be possible to remove a cancer that has spread to other body parts and thus the prognosis is not good for such patients. The spread of cancer can however be used to control its spread.

Survival Rate for Carcinoid Tumors

After diagnosis of carcinoid tumors, the survival rate lies in between 68 to 77 percent (68 to 77 in every 100 patients) will meet the 5 year mark.

Certain feature will determine the survival rates such as where the carcinoid tumors started in your body. It is often hard to pinpoint the location where the carcinoid tumors have started. The information below highlights on

  • Carcinoid in lungs
  • Carcinoid in the digestion tract.

Survival Rate for Carcinoid Tumors of the Digestive Tract

The rate of survival for carcinoid tumors in the digestion tract or digestion system differs and stage is the determiner. 90 percent of the people survive for more than five years overall, if the location where the carcinoid tumor started is at the appendix. The spreading potential of carcinoid tumors from the appendix is less likely to be high than cancer that originates in other body parts. So patients have less likelihood of the cancer being spread when they are being diagnosed and thus their general outlook is relatively fair.

If the carcinoid tumors has not spread to other parts outside it origin (localized), 93% have the fiveyear survival rate.

If the lymph nodes have been affected by the carcinoid tumors,74 percent have a fiveyear survival rate.

When carcinoid tumors have spread to other body parts (metastatic carcinoid) 28 to 40 percent exceeds five year longevity. Your cancer specialist can at least tell you your survival rate basing on your situation. Statistics are just but general guides.

Survival Rate for Carcinoid Tumors in the Lungs

80 percent of lung carcinoid tumor patients live for five years or more if the disease is in stage 1-2 (localized).Only 14 to 26 out of 100 patients in stage 3-4(when carcinoid has spread to nymph nodes far from the location of the original tumor) – survive for 5 years and more. Patients with typical lung carcinoid can be more tolerant than those with atypical carcinoid. By the time of diagnosis, atypical lung carcinoid tumors will probably be more advanced.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 30, 2021

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