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Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors Treatment

General Information About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors


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A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is cancer that forms in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is part of the body's digestive system. It helps to digest food, takes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from food to be used by the body and helps pass waste material out of the body. The GI tract is made up of these and other organs:

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors form from a certain type of neuroendocrine cell (a type of cell that is like a nerve cell and a hormone-making cell). These cells are scattered throughout the chest and abdomen but most are found in the GI tract. Neuroendocrine cells make hormones that help control digestive juices and the muscles used in moving food through the stomach and intestines. A GI carcinoid tumor may also make hormones and release them into the body.

GI carcinoid tumors are rare and most grow very slowly. Most of them occur in the appendix, small intestine, and rectum. Sometimes more than one tumor will form.

See the following PDQ summaries for more information related to GI and other types of carcinoid tumors:

Health history can affect the risk of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Risk factors for GI carcinoid tumors include the following:

Some gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors have no symptoms in the early stages.

The growth of the tumor and/or the hormones the tumor makes may cause symptoms . Some tumors, especially tumors of the stomach or appendix, may not cause symptoms. Carcinoid tumors are often found during tests or treatments for other conditions.

Carcinoid tumors in the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum), colon, and rectum sometimes cause symptoms as they grow or because of the hormones they make. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Talk to your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur.

Carcinoid syndrome may occur if the tumor spreads to the liver or other parts of the body.

The hormones made by gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are usually destroyed by liver enzymes in the blood. If the tumor has spread to the liver and the liver enzymes cannot destroy the extra hormones made by the tumor, high amounts of these hormones may remain in the body and cause carcinoid syndrome. This can also happen if tumor cells enter the blood. Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome include the following:

These symptoms and others may be caused by gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors or by other conditions. Talk to your doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

Imaging studies and tests that examine the blood and urine are used to detect (find) and diagnose gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following: