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Carcinoid tumors are a slow-growing type of cancer that can arise in several places throughout your body. Carcinoid tumors usually appear in the gastrointestinal tract (appendix, stomach, small intestine, colon, and rectum) and in the lungs. But, carcinoid tumors can also begin in other organs, including the ovaries and testes. Carcinoid tumors rarely 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.
Complications of Carcinoid Tumor
The cells of carcinoid tumors can secrete hormones and other chemicals into your body, causing a range of complications, including:
Causes of Carcinoid Tumor
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 from cells in the neuroendocrine system, a part of your body that has many functions, including production of certain hormones. These cells also have characteristics similar to nerve cells.
Signs & Symptoms of Carcinoid Tumor
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:
Diagnosis of Carcinoid Tumor
Tests and procedures used to diagnose carcinoid tumors include:
Treatments of Carcinoid Tumor
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:
When detected early, a carcinoid tumor may be removed completely using surgery. Most carcinoid tumors are advanced when discovered, so complete removal may not be possible. In some cases, surgeons may try to remove as much of the tumor as possible, to help control signs and symptoms. What types of operations are available to you will depend on the size and location of your carcinoid tumor.
Treatments for carcinoid tumors that have spread to the liver
Carcinoid tumors commonly spread (metastasize) to the liver. Options may include:
Medications for carcinoid syndrome
Injections of medications may block tumor cells from secreting the hormones that can cause the signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Octreotide (Sandostatin) and lanreotide (Somatuline Depot) may help control flushing and diarrhea in most people with carcinoid syndrome. Both drugs are injected once a month and may cause side effects such as abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, and nausea. Side effects typically diminish over time.
When to seek Medical Advice
Carcinoid tumors often don't cause any signs and symptoms. If you experience any signs and symptoms that bother you and are persistent, make an appointment with your doctor.
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