Carcinoid tumors are a type of slow-growing cancer disease that can arise in many places throughout the body. Carcinoid tumors, which are one subset of tumors known as neuroendocrine tumors, typically start in the digestive tract like stomach, appendix, small intestine, colon, rectum, or in the lungs. Carcinoid tumors sometimes do not create signs and symptoms until late in the disease. Carcinoid tumors can generate and release hormones into the body that make signs and symptoms like diarrhea disease or skin flushing. Treatment of carcinoid tumors typically includes surgery and medicines.
Symptoms of Carcinoid Tumors
In some cases, carcinoid tumors do not create any signs or symptoms. When they do happen, signs and symptoms of carcinoid tumors are typically vague and depend on the position of the tumor. The common symptoms of carcinoid tumors usually seen in the lungs and in the digestive tract include
1) Chest pain
3) Shortness of breath
5) Redness or a feeling of warmth in the face and neck
6) Weight gain, especially around the midsection and upper back
7) Pink or purple marks on the skin that look like stretch marks
8) Abdominal pain
9) Nausea, vomiting illness and inability to pass stool due to intestinal blockage
10) Rectal bleeding
11) Rectal pain
Carcinoid Tumors Causes
It is unclear what causes carcinoid tumors. In general, cancer happens when a cell develops mutations in its DNA. The mutations permit the cell to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would normally die. The accumulating cells create a tumor. Cancer cells can invade nearby healthy tissue and expand to other areas of the body. Doctors do not know what causes carcinoid tumors. But they know that carcinoid tumors develop in neuroendocrine cells. Neuroendocrine cells are found in many organs throughout the body. They do some nerve cell functions and some hormone-producing endocrine cell functions. Some hormones that are generated by neuroendocrine cells are cortisol, histamine, insulin, and serotonin.
Complications of Carcinoid Tumors
The cells of carcinoid tumors can secrete hormones and other chemicals, making a range of complications of carcinoid tumors, involving:
1) Carcinoid syndrome: Carcinoid syndrome makes redness or a feeling of warmth in the face and neck, chronic diarrhea, and difficulty in breathing, among other signs and symptoms.
2) Carcinoid heart disease: Carcinoid tumors may secrete hormones that can create a thickening of the lining of heart chambers, valves, and blood vessels. This can produce leaky heart valves and heart failure that may need valve-replacement surgery. Carcinoid heart disease can typically be managed with medicines.
3) Cushing syndrome: A lung carcinoid tumor can generate an excess of a hormone that can make the body to lead too much of the hormone cortisol.
Carcinoid Tumors Diagnosis
Tests and procedures used for the diagnosis of carcinoid tumors include
1) Blood examines: If you have a carcinoid tumor, the blood may contain high levels of hormones secreted by a carcinoid tumor or byproducts made when those hormones are broken down by the body.
2) Urine test: People with carcinoid tumors complain to have excess levels of a chemical in their urine that is generated when the body breaks down hormones secreted by carcinoid tumors.
3) Imaging test: Imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), octreotide scan, and X-ray, may assist the doctor in pinpointing the carcinoid tumor’s position.
4) A scope or camera that sees inside the body: The doctor may apply a long, thin tube equipped with a lens or camera to test areas inside the body. An endoscopy, which involves passing a scope down the throat, may assist the doctor see inside the gastrointestinal tract. A bronchoscopy, using a scope passed down the throat and into the lungs, can help find lung carcinoid tumors. Passing a scope through the rectum can assist diagnose rectal carcinoid tumors. To observe inside the small intestine, the doctor may suggest a test using a pill-sized camera that you swallow.
5) Removing tissue for lab testing: A sample of tissue from the tumor may be collected to ensure the diagnosis. What type of biopsy you will undergo depends on where the tumor is positioned. 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 understand the types of cells in the tumor and how aggressive those cells come under the microscope.
Treatment of Carcinoid Tumors
Treatment of carcinoid tumors depends on the tumor position, whether cancer has expanded to other parts of the body, the types of hormones the tumor secretes, the overall health, and your own choices.